Review: 'Juliet, Naked' a rock romance with heart

Rose Byrne, Chris O'Dowd and Ethan Hawke lead cast in sweet romantic comedy

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Ethan Hawke, Rose Byrne and Chris O'Dowd in "Juliet, Naked."

Art and obsession lie at the center of "Juliet, Naked," a pleasing romantic comedy that gets by on the charms of its cast and the abundance of color around the edges of its shabby frames.  

Chris O'Dowd is Duncan Thomson, a slacker-type whose life is dedicated to Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), a '90s singer-songwriter who disappeared from the limelight after his landmark 1993 album "Juliet." Duncan leads fanboard discussions on the whereabouts of Crowe and the mystery of his retirement from music. 

Rose Byrne is Annie Platt, Duncan's girlfriend, who does not share his obsession with Crowe. When he receives a new demo recording of Crowe's "Juliet," she posts her own dismissive review to Duncan's site. That leads to a response from Crowe himself, who agrees with her assessment, and leads to a friendship between the pair. 

There are mechanical problems with the plot -- for a supposed recluse, Crowe isn't doing much to hide, and his interactions with Annie clip along at far too convenient a pace -- but "Juliet, Naked" has a warm, glowing spirit that helps it rise above its issues. 

O'Dowd seems to have an innate understanding of the intersection of obsessive fandom and self-absorption; he's a hoot in his best role since "Bridesmaids." Hawke is in his '90s heartthrob mode, 20 years and 20 pounds later; it's as if his "Reality Bites" character, Troy Dyer, cut an album and never grew up. 

Byrne is "Juliet's" heart, however, and she brings poignancy to the film as a woman yearning for motherhood, but unsure of the path to get there. 

"Juliet, Naked" is directed by Jesse Peretz, who made the similarly whimsical and low-key "Our Idiot Brother," and is adapted from a story by the poet laureate of '90s slacker music-geek culture, Nick Hornby. It's got heart and laughs in equal measure, and it sings a sweet, sweet song.


'Juliet, Naked'


Rated R for language

Running time: 105 minutes