There’s a side of me that liked “Juliet, Naked,” and another that felt it doesn’t deliver. I was looking more into the acting from Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, and Chris O’Dowd, and it’s sentimental tone. But looking at it, I wanted it to have a sort-of “Notting Hill” magic, being that it features an American celebrity and an English nobody. Actually, the American celebrity here is not that big. Well, at least one character does. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll explain.
Byrne stars as Annie, an Englishwoman running her father’s exhibition, while dealing with her boyfriend Duncan’s (O’Dowd) annoying obsession over the Indie rock star Tucker Crowe (Hawke). He has a fansite “Can You Hear Me,” in which he wants to solve some mysteries about his idol, and his favorite is the underrated “Juliet” album (ranking at 43 in the Top 100). In fact, he calls it a “masterpiece.”
She opens Duncan’s package, and finds the “Juliet” demo CD, which was originally titled “Juliet Naked.” While she hates it, Duncan calls it a “masterpiece,” but probably even better than the final copy. But when she writes a scathing review on Duncan’s website, she receives an email from Tucker, who couldn’t agree more. They begin emailing each other about their situations. Tucker has kids from different mothers, including a baby he abandoned out of humility and fear, and Duncan cheats on Annie with a colleague of his, thus ending their relationship.
Among the few other kids Tucker has, his daughter Lizzie (Ayoola Smart), who is studying in England, is having a baby, and he takes his little boy Jackson (Azhy Robertson) there, and he decides to meet Annie. And when he meets his biggest fan, boy, do we hear some disagreements about his “classic hit.”
Based on Nick Horny’s (“Brooklyn,” “Wild”) novel, produced by Judd Apatow, and directed by Jesse Peretz (“Our Idiot Brothers,” TV’s “Girls”), “Juliet, Naked” offers such likable performances from the cast, mostly thanks to Byrne and Hawke. We admire them for their sentimental values and feelings. He wishes he could have done better and she wishes she can be happier. It also offers some decent humor, not laugh-out-loud funny, but a few chuckles, and lovely scenery in the U.K.-the towns, the beaches, and even a movie theater with a “Lost in Translation” poster (not that its a big deal or anything).
But this wasn’t enough. The story is generic and modest, the “Notting Hill” reminder isn’t there, and the minor story of Tucker’s abandoned child isn’t really delivered. We don’t really see the outcome, other than a phone call.
I wasn’t feeling anything magical during my viewing, and parts of the movie, like Annie and Duncan’s break-up, are just a little silly. “Juliet, Naked” has its heart in the right place, but as I walked out at the end, I’ve realized: I’ve seen better rom coms than this. Not that it’s terrible or anything, which is not, but the polite word is “mediocre.”