Directed by Jesse Peretz
Starring Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O’Dowd
The cast and the concept are first-rate in “Juliet, Naked,” a Nick Hornby adaptation starring Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd, about a woman who falls in love with her boyfriend’s musical idol.
The movie, as realized by director Jesse Peretz, fails to live up to this promise because it remains relentlessly soft around the edges, committed to a glossy romantic comedy aesthetic that underplays the inherent weirdness of this cosmically unlikely scenario.
Byrne plays Annie Platt, stuck in a stale relationship with Duncan Thomson (O’Dowd), who is far more emotionally attached to his favorite singer Tucker Crowe (Hawke), an indie singer-songwriter of yesteryear whose work is kept alive by the internet fan group Duncan runs.
A negative review Annie posts out of spite spurs a cross-Atlantic correspondence with Tucker himself that culminates in the shaggy-haired American has-been paying a visit to England.
The starring trio could scarcely be better, with Byrne crafting an interesting character out of Annie’s combination of profound frustration and basic decency, while O’Dowd perfects the self-absorbed, pseudo-intellectual routine without ever seeming like a cartoon and Hawke invests Tucker with wisdom and weariness.
There’s great serio-comic potential in the complicated betrayal at the heart of the story, but it only pays off in spurts. The movie might have benefited from being a little meaner and a little more uncompromising, going in a direction that skewed more toward the satirical rather than the kind and heartfelt. Put another way, everyone’s just too nice.