Hot Take: So, apparently, I’m a huge Ethan Hawke fan and never knew it. Another excellent adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel.
When I really think about my favorite films over time, ones featuring Ethan Hawke frequently enter the conversation. There’s, of course, Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy which all three films would make my Top 100 of all-time should I ever conceive such a think. (Confession: I’ve conceived it and can’t find my notes but know they’re somewhere.) There are others that would contend to make the list as well: Reality Bites and Training Day are right near the Top 100 if they aren’t on it. (If I could only find those damn notes!!!) I’m not as much of a fan of Boyhood as others are but he was the best part of the film, in my opinion. I liked his turn as Hamlet. 2013’s Getaway is a terrible movie but it’s a guilty pleasure of mine and, lo and behold, who’s in that film? Yes, Selena Gomez is in it but Ethan Hawke is there, too. (Plus, there’s that amazing customized Shelby Mustang.) In recent years, since launching MHT, I’ve liked Hawke in Maggie’s Plan, The Magnificent Seven, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and he was my selection for Best Actor for the first half of the year for his role in First Reformed. Let’s face it, I really dig Ethan Hawke. What’s surprising is usually an actor with that type of pedigree and that level of affinity for his performances leads to me having ridiculously high expectations for any movie featuring him or her (*COUGH* Matthew McConaughey *COUGH*) and usually being disappointed (*COUGH* White Boy Rick *COUGH*). Yet with Juliet, Naked, the latest Nick Hornby novel converted to the big screen, my expectations were moderate to low. Fortunately, the film featuring Rose Byrne, Hawke and Chris O’Dowd blew away those expectations and made for what is likely to be the best romantic comedy of 2018.
In Juliet, Naked, Annie (Byrne) is competing for her boyfriend Duncan’s (O’Dowd) attention with his obsession with singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe (Hawke) who has disappeared from the limelight only to gain a cult Internet following where fans obsess over what may have ever become of Crowe. When Annie has reaches a level of frustration over being ignored by her boyfriend, she pens a negative comment on Duncan’s Tucker Crowe fan site in reference to a recently uncovered, unreleased album of Crowe’s. Despite Duncan’s displeasure with her opinion, Annie is contacted by Crowe and the two strike up a pen pal relationship. When Duncan reveals he’s had an affair, Annie ditches him and the door opens for something to possibly happen between Annie and Tucker but the two would have to meet first.
Considering the track record of films adapted from the work of Nick Hornby, the quality of Juliet, Naked should come as no surprise. It’s his 6th Hornby book to receive a film adaptation including Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, About A Boy, A Long Way Down and Slam. Somehow, despite Hornby’s resume and my apparent love of Ethan Hawke’s work, this film flew completely under the radar. Obviously, it wasn’t a monster at the box office as it barely broke $3 million through it’s 5th weekend and at widest release made it to 467 theaters (and is now down to under 300) which makes me not the only one to miss the boat here. This one will likely have a stronger presence when it hits streaming devices, cable and Redbox (I hear people still rent movies) and if you haven’t seen it yet will likely be how you watch it.
If given the opportunity, Juliet, Naked is a worthwhile endeavor. Byrne is a treat in the lead role and Hawke as the off-the-grid former rock star has an unexpected charm and charisma stealing most of the scenes he appears in. He’s not the star but he’s the catalyst of the story and gives Byrne’s Annie an opportunity to shine as well. O’Dowd also adds humor as the ex-boyfriend. It’s a well rounded film with a great script, excellent performances and a not too hokey plot that typically befalls most rom-coms. There’s enough gravitas within the romantic comedy to elevate the film to a level that most films of this genre are unable to reach. It’s currently sitting in my Top 10 for the year (at 4th) and has an outside shot of finishing the year there depending on how the final 3 and a 1/2 months play out.
Duh… Ethan Hawke, of course. (He even sings.)
You refuse to accept your love of Ethan Hawke and fear seeing this will not allow you to continue your refusal.