(Release Info London/UK schedule; November 2nd, 2018, Empire Cinemas)
Annie (Rose Byrne) is stuck in a long-term relationship with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), an obsessive fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). When the acoustic demo of Tucker's hit record from 25 years ago surfaces, it's release leads to a life-changing encounter with the elusive rocker himself. Based on the novel by Nick Hornby, "Juliet, Naked" is a comic account of life’s second chances.
Annie, the curator of a small museum in the drab English seaside town where she was born, is beginning to realize that her life has been stuck in low gear. Her partner of 15 years, Duncan, aspires to be the world’s foremost expert on reclusive American singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe and spends all his free time maintaining a website dedicated to the mostly forgotten rocker. Crowe quit the business at the height of his fame and now, pushing 50, is living in his ex-girlfriend’s garage in New York and trying to make up for past parental failures by dedicating his life to raising his young son. But when Duncan receives the long-lost demo version of Crowe’s revered album, 'Juliet', it sets off a chain reaction that will change all of their lives. Duncan hails the album as a masterpiece on his Crowe-themed website, while Annie, frustrated by his obsession with the washed-up musician, posts her own scathing review, sparking a make-or-break fight between the couple. She's startled when Crowe unexpectedly reaches out to her to agree with her assessment and the two strike up a clandestine online correspondence. As their friendship begins to cross over into romance, Crowe comes to London for a visit and the stage is set for an epically messy love triangle that inspires Annie to take the chance of a lifetime.
Annie was born in a seaside town that's once a popular summer resort buts now badly run down. After leaving to study art in London, she returned to help her father run a small museum in town and never left. In her early 40s, she's now wondering if she will ever fulfill her early ambitions or instead spend the rest of her days puttering around a few dusty exhibits. At this point in her life, Annie is realizing the many things she has missed out on. She badly wants a child, but she and longtime boyfriend Duncan agreed long ago not to have any. She's frustrated with their relationship, with having to be a parent to her irresponsible adult sister and with being stuck in an unfulfilling job. It’s an unusual sort of love story about two people, Annie and Duncan, who are in love with the same man for different reasons. It’s also the story of a couple falling apart. It’s got the bones of something tender and gentle. Annie is very insecure, constantly beating herself up and second-guessing herself. And suddenly she makes these bold decisions. Where she has been incredibly passive and her whole life seems like a lost opportunity, she suddenly decides to seize the day and break all the rules.
For 15 years, Annie has played second fiddle to Tucker Crowe in her relationship with Duncan. He was there from day one, long before he was physically there. There’s a great line in the book where it says it’s like she’s got a partner with an illness and she’s just grown used to accommodating that. All of a sudden, overnight, that’s over. Annie is the most compelling character and the story centers on her. She’s blocked and wants to learn to turn the page, to reinvent her life if she can, but she's caught between these two quite different man-children. Her story is the most emotionally grounded and the film wants her buried behind male characters who are louder but have less urgent needs. It's about the way in which Annie looks at her life and her failed relationships, and her frustrations and her regrets about not having a child. The film gives her more of a backstory about why she felt obligated to stay in this small town and strengthened her sense of responsibility to it. That makes her decision to leave feel bigger.
We meet Duncan about 15 years after he arrived in Annie’s hometown to teach film studies at the local college. To Annie, he seemed at first like a sophisticated, inspiring figure. He's artistic and passionate about books, music and culture. He sweeps her off her feet in a way, although they're clearly one of those couples that everybody but them knows should not be together. Duncan is childishly devoted to his memories of Tucker Crowe. Far more interested in his idol than his partner, he spends most of his free time maintaining a website devoted to the musician. The frustration with someone like Duncan is his stubbornness, his belief that this is the greatest album that’s ever been released and no other opinion is allowed. Duncan has this juvenile quality and utter obsession with the music, but it’s done with such gentle humor that it’s always fun to watch. On the other hand, Duncan is such a quintessential Hornby character that there's little room for improvement. Duncan’s passion for the music legitimizes him in a way. Duncan and Annie are on their way to quiet lives of desperation when the movie starts. Something is going to blow no matter what.
Tucker is a self-loathing father. He's angry about his failures in parenting and trying to redeem himself by doing it right with his fifth child, 6-year-old Jackson (Azhy Robertson). It's important to show that Tucker is growing as a father and not just regretting the decisions he had made. But Tucker is such a disaster. He’s got this terrible history of having children he’s never met with a series of different women. You've to ask why he's's doing this. But that’s the point; we do fall for people who are completely inappropriate. Even though this guy has lived a life of indulgence and is a failure as a family man, he still has a devilish sort of charm and humanistic appeal. He has so much knowledge and emotional intelligence about music, which is such a big character in the film. A reclusive cult Idol Tucker Crowe is an almost forgotten figure in alternative rock music of the late ’80s and early ’90s. His album 'Juliet' became an obsession for his loyal fans when he went into seclusion shortly after it's release. The story of Tucker Crowe reminded of Jeff Buckley, the singer-songwriter who died at 30 after releasing just a single studio album. Obviously that’s a story with a different ending. But it’s about unfulfilled potential. When an artist has a moment and then disappears, they take on another life, a history with a great deal of weight. So much music is disposable, but when you've such a talent it rises up.
The biggest challenge in adapting any novel is how to dramatize the narrator’s interior thoughts. Novelist and former New Yorker music critic Nick Hornby is known for weaving his passion for popular music and it's fans into his stories. 'Juliet, Naked', his 2009 exploration of romantic attachment and disillusionment, features a retired rock musician now living in seclusion, hiding from his own unbearable success. When you think somebody’s lost and they suddenly appear, that’s such a great dramatic moment. The internet allows devotees of the most arcane topics to congregate online. It's about how groups of people can form very easily, in a way they hadn’t been able to in the past. Even the most obscure cult figure can be discusses by a fan base all over the world. "Juliet, Naked" combines rock ’n’ roll music with recognizable characters and issues most of us can relate to in some way. People who admire the novel will find that it6s very much in the spirit of the book, both thematically and narratively. You always have to invent a few things to make a book work on screen, but as adaptations go, this is pretty close to the original. The film shows how things work in that world, what parts of the fantasy are true and what is just wishful thinking.
In fact, one of the central themes of "Juliet, Naked" is whom art belongs to after it’s been made public, the artist or the audience? Who knows the music best? Art means what people want it to mean and those opinions are perfectly legitimate. Just because you created it doesn’t give you any more right to it's interpretation than anybody else. If you want it to stay yours, then don’t put it out there. The music, the comedy and the drama creates a wonderful story about a woman coming into her own, holding out for the possibility of love without defining herself in terms of the men around her. For all it's humor and romance, the film poses some serious questions, such as how much people can transform and redeem themselves midway through life. The film connects with a wide swath of moviegoers who recognize aspects of their own lives in what the characters are going through. It resonates with people who are nostalgic for a period of their lives when they're obsessed with their favorite musician, as many people are in their youth. "Juliet, Naked" has all the attributes of a great date movie, an increasingly rare breed. It’s adult-friendly, not predictable and plays out in an enjoyable way on screen. When people get tired of the summer superhero films, they’ll find a great escape in this.