Juliet, Naked

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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Okay, guys, don’t get over-stimulated. “Juliet, Naked” is not a porn movie.

Rather, this is a dramedy based on a book by Nick Hornby.

For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Nicholas Peter John Hornby is the acclaimed author of “Fever Pitch,” “High Fidelity,” and “About a Boy” – all made into movies. In 2004 the BBC named Hornby as the 29th most influential person in British Culture.

“Juliet, Naked” tells the mix-‘em-and-match-‘em story of a young woman who falls in love with her boyfriend’s music idol.

First of all, you need to know that “Juliet, Naked” is the name of an album – a newly discovered acoustic demo of a once-popular rocker’s hit record from 25 years ago — not our lovely protagonist.

Annie (Rose Byrne) doesn’t like the sound when she hears it, much to the consternation of Duncan, her music-obsessed significant other (Chris O’Dowd). He has devoted his very existence to the forgotten rocker Tucker Crowe.

“I think I’ve had enough Tucker Bloody Crowe to last about twenty lifetimes,” Annie declares.

Angered, Duncan feels impelled to write an enthusiastic review of the album on his fan website. Annie retaliates with a scathing article of her own.

Imagine her surprise when she receives an email response from the musician himself, Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). The iconic rocker disappeared from the scene 20 years ago after the release of a failed album, “Juliet.” And — surprise! — he agrees with her assessment of this new outtake CD.

Being something of a rom-com, you can guess where this is going: Annie falls for Tucker. And things begin to unravel from there.

Tucker, it turns out, has a very messy family life. Multiple children by multiple girlfriends. Where might Annie fit in?

And then there’s Duncan, a fixated fan, only a megabyte short of being a stalker. Maybe this is as much about him as about Annie and the faded singer-songwriter.

As Annie observes, Duncan knows more about Crowe than Crowe himself. He’s obsessed with someone else’s life.

People have called the story “likably bleak humor” and a “pitch-perfect examination of male fandom and the almost sinister way in which the advent of the Internet has fed and enabled it.”

The film “Juliet, Naked” is singing its melancholy song this week at Tropic Cinema.

It’s always a challenge to make a movie about music. The songs selected for the soundtrack have to live up to the on-screen promise. Particularly, if it’s original music.

To create the classic album that the character Tucker is known for, director Jesse Peretz spent three years writing songs with his oft-time collaborator Nathan Larson.

They also requested demos from 35 musicians, settling on songs by Conor Oberst, Robyn Hitchcock, and Ryan Adams.
The result is a sound reminiscent of Jeff Buckley.

Will you laugh at the plight of this out-of-synch ménage-à-trois? Given that “Juliet, Naked” was produced by Judd Apatow, the chances are good.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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