What a gem of a film! The mythology around our idols intertwined with poignant memories in old photos elicit not characters bound by their fates, but characters like us moving in thoughtful steps in the right directions.
This charming, but imperfect world is set in Sandcliff, England. One thinks of “stuck in the sand” and “jumping off a cliff” after we meet Duncan ( Chris O’Dowd ). O’Dowd has never been as clueless and self-absorbed as he is in “Juliet, Naked”. Women may forever repeat “Duncan” to warn off anyone considering co-habitation with a jerk.
Annie, ( Rose Byrne ) our protagonist, spends much of her time sleeping off depression. Her job of running a historical museum had been her dead father’s. Pickled baby sharks in glass jars and shells and old photographs comprise the cache. Annie is feeling like she may want a baby, but Duncan believes that the world doesn’t need more kids. However, he seems one himself.
The feeling of missing decades haunt Annie and one other character, Tucker Crowe. The old acoustical rocker Crowe is Duncan’s obssession. Duncan’s hobby is running an on-line forum and a Tucker Crowe website, “Can You Hear Me”. Duncan considers Crowe a seminal figure of alternative rock: his 1993 masterpiece “Juliet” the epitome of genius.
The walls of Annie and Duncan’s abode are papered with his posters. Old tapes of Crowe’s work are enshrined. Annie is clearly in second place; and, when a new colleague of Duncan’s, Gina, steps in Annie is in third.
British author Nick Hornsby of “ High Fidelity” fame has written a novel that captures the regrets most honest adults have. Director Jesse Peretz has delivered these memes for the screen. The cast is stellar. The music written by Ryan Adams, Robyn Hitchcock, Nathan Larson, and Conor Oberst soulful.
When Annie starts an on-line friendship/romance with her boyfriend’s idol/obssession we cheer her on. Anything to get her away from Duncan! One of my favorite scenes is when Annie, in new light blue lacy underwear is batting the fire alarm, and Duncan has a melt down over the absence of D batteries. He calls Annie a “ half-formed relic master, however unnuanced”, and we want him out of her life. Feckless as Tucker may be , he gets regret as he explains his last 14 years of watching “Law And Order” and drug and alcohol abuse.Throw in his five children by assorted mates and Annie’s lesbian sister, Co-hart Terry and his “ Summer of 1964 Exhibition” ;and, modern life looks normal. Tucker attempts to cheer Annie when she confesses she has missed decades of fulfillment. He tells her to subtract the time she spent reading good books and sleeping and she could hone her loss down a half decade.
No one will feel they have wasted 98 minutes of fruitful musings by seeing this lovely slice-of-life picture. Maybe viewers will even learn to value things that come easily.