Thursday, January 25, 2018

Sundance with Abe: Juliet, Naked

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the fifth time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can.

Juliet, Naked
Directed by Jesse Peretz

There are hobbies that are normal and healthy, like trading baseball cards or playing video games. And then there are obsessions which drive their devotees to an absurd level of focus and time that detracts from anything else in their life. Most people are guilty of indulging an obsession or two, but it’s not usually to a crippling level that prohibits them from having a single conversation that doesn’t revolve around their favorite topic. Naturally, this type of behavior is exactly the right subject matter for a comedy.

Annie (Rose Byrne) lives an unexciting life in a small port town in England. Her boyfriend Duncan (Chris O’Dowd) spends every waking moment running a website about his favorite musician, Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), who disappeared during a concert years earlier. When Annie posts a negative review of a newly revealed record on the website, she begins, unbeknownst to Duncan, an electronic relationship with Tucker, who lives in the United States away from the limelight, trying to keep track of the many children he has had with different women over the years.

There are many films that have navigated the territory of a remote romance in the past, “Sleepless in Seattle” chief among them. The difference here is that Annie and Tucker know exactly the situation that they’re in, which is connecting with someone across the world because they felt they could really understand each other. Duncan barely even notices that Annie has engaged in a new activity, and would never dream that she could relate to his idol on a personal basis in a way he never could. The eventual direction of the plot makes for some great comedy that proves genuinely endearing and funny.

Byrne is probably best known to American audiences for her lackluster role on “Damages” and her far livelier part in “Bridesmaids.” Here, she presents as a wonderful lead, capable of milking comedy out of any situation, playing perfectly off of the two men in the film. O’Dowd is hilariously committed and Hawke is appropriately aloof in his perception of his role in the lives of those most important to him. This could have been a simple, throwaway comedy, but instead it’s a strong, straightforward film that makes great use of its cast to elevate a strong script adapted from the novel by Nick Hornby, easily one of the best films playing at Sundance this year.


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