Fanboy: The Movie.
One of the most difficult things about writing a blog where you review current movies, is that sometimes there just aren’t any good movies in theatres to review. Don’t get me wrong, I’m here for seeing a bad movie. Sometimes those are more fun than traditionally “good” movies. However, there was nothing currently playing that I felt comfortable spending my money on. It is for that reason, as well as my deep love for Chris O’Dowd and Rose Byrne, that I ended up seeing Juliet, Naked (2018), a British romantic comedy that was released back in August.
I ended up watching the trailer for this movie on YouTube multiple times. Not because the plot (a woman breaks up with her boyfriend and winds up becoming pen pals with the washed-up rock star he idolizes) is complicated, but because I just wasn’t sure if it was worth the price of admission. Turns out, I’m conflicted.
Juliet, Naked has a lot going for it. For starters, it’s a British comedy. No disrespect to the incredible North American comedians and comedy films, but there’s just something about British performers and movies that I find inherently funnier. They GET comedy. Especially romantic comedies. The way that they handle tone, direction, and dialogue, makes characters more relatable and enjoyable than when you’re watching their American counterparts. I think they’re able to find the comedy in romance and relationships, rather than making broad and often dumb jokes that boil down to, “Gee, men and women are so different!” I’m looking at you, The Ugly Truth (2009).
Which brings me to why I was slightly disappointed with this movie. It’s totally charming, well-written, and well-cast (trust me, we will get there), but the movie fails to deliver anything overly romantic or funny. It offers brief flashes of both, glimpses of things that have the potential to be great, but end up going nowhere. Which is upsetting to me, because two-thirds of the lead actors, Chris O’Dowd and Rose Byrne, are quintessential romantic comedy leads. God I love them. They ooze charisma, are capable of making the simplest line of dialogue hilarious, and it’s very easy to fall in love with either one of them. We need to stop sleeping on them. They should be in every romantic comedy.
O’Dowd and Byrne, as Duncan and Annie respectively, get a fair amount of screentime together, but the majority of the movie is spent between Annie and Ethan Hawke’s Tucker Crowe, the retired rock star that Duncan is obsessed with. I’ve never been a huge Ethan Hawke fan, but I agree that he’s a skilled actor, a talent which helped make his character all the more intriguing. In romantic comedies, the “Mr. Right” character can end up being extremely cliché. The same can be said for the “former rock star” character in musical movies. Tucker, however, was a breathe of fresh air. Often, the rock star’s story is about them chasing after the spotlight again, trying to reclaim some shred of their former glory. Tucker is completely different. He’s essentially renounced music, and is content to live in a garage while being a more attentive and loving father to his young son Jackson. Don’t worry, the kid lives in a mansion with his mom. Yeah, I don’t care how much you love your dad, never volunteer to live in a garage with him. Also, couldn’t Tucker be down-to-earth and authentic while living in a studio apartment? No, garage or nothing? Cool.
There’s a point in the movie when Tucker and Annie have been e-mailing back and forth for a while, sharing intimate details about their lives, where she laments that she’s wasted the last 15 years of her life doing nothing fulfilling. Tucker tells her that she needs to whittle that down to 10 years because, “you don’t count sleep, which you need, good books you’ve read, and enjoyable conversations.” Damn, I love when movies are able to sneak in little pearls of wisdom like that, small messages that make you stop and think about your own life. Evidently living in a garage gives you an amazing sense of clarity. Throughout, the movie handles themes of aging, parenting, and relationships, and the struggles and pain that accompany them. While it would have been easy to dwell on those aspects and make this a straight up drama, the movie remains hopeful and optimistic, always exploring and focusing on the positives of the choices we make as we and our relationships mature.
Overall, I had a lot of technical problems with Juliet, Naked. The pacing isn’t great, it’s poorly edited, and things and conversations happen without any real setup. Worst of all, I found the ending to be slightly anti-climactic, which may just be my biggest pet peeve when it comes to movies. Well, that and Tom Cruise. Yes, Tom Cruise being in any movie at any time is a pet peeve of mine. It’s probably best that this movie is no longer in theatres, because I wouldn’t recommend spending money on it. However, because the cast is so charming, the dialogue is so well-written, and the town Annie and Duncan live in is so picturesque, definitely give it a watch when it inevitably comes to Netflix. On a rainy day open a bottle of wine, make some nachos, and watch it with your mom. It’ll be great. Oh! Better yet, drink every time someone says Tucker Crowe’s full name. I promise you’ll be hammered within the first 25 minutes.
Will you end up watching Juliet, Naked? Is Tom Cruise your pet peeve as well?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!