“Juliet, Naked”

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.

 

 

“Loving Vincent”

Four of my review-followers took their time to message me not to miss the innovative film, “Loving Vincent”. I went alone mid-week, early afternoon, and was surprised to see forty people in the theatre. The uniqueness of this Polish Film Institute’s handpainted animated endeavor had been well-publicized evidently. Over one hundred artists captured Van Gogh’s brush strokes through his familiar interiors, portraits and vistas. The screen shimmers in light and substance.

Directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welshman and cinematographer Tristan Oliver deserve accolades. “Loving Vincent” is the world’s first fully painted film. Over 65,000 frames were created to bring screenwriters Kobiela’s, Welshman’s , and Jacek Dehnel’s story and homage to the screen.

Structured like a murder mystery, the known acquaintances of the thirty-seven-year-old Van Gogh are met and interviewed by Armand Roulin, the son of the village postmaster, who liked Vincent. The elder Roulin saw Vincent almost daily  in his rounds, and he respected Vincent’s work ethic and his daily letters to his brother, Theo.

Chris O’Dowd is the elder Roulin, who sends his son to deliver the last letter Vincent wrote to Theo. This kind courtesy, delivering a dead man’s letter, has us meeting some of the magnificent cast of PBS’s “Poldark”. Both Aiden Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson have key roles as the boatman and inn proprietress. Dr. Paul Gachet, Vincent’s psychiatrist/doctor is played by the gifted Jerome Flynn. Vincent Van Gogh is rendered beautifully by Robert Gulaczyk, who reminded me of Ralf Fines in his nuanced performance. Dr. Gachet housekeeper, Louise, calls Vincent an evil nutcase, “Nothing has been the same since he came here.” “ He killed himself on Sunday~his own ungodly act.” We feel his art change how we see the world, rather than how he left it.” The cast is superb. Art’s gift inspiring.

Van Gogh’s life framework is told through his paintings. The cause of his death is surmised. Suicide and the tortured soul made human, rather than clichéd. We learn a few new factoids about Vincent, like the fact that he made all sorts of noises when he painted.

One of my favorite visual metaphors was Vincent’s changing reflection moving in a cup of water. His use of yellow and blue pigment has never been so impactful to me as when I watched this film. Stay for the complete credits and listen to the lyrics:” Now, I think I know what you tried say to me~how you suffered for your sanity..”

The score should win this oil-painted animation more kudos.  “Starry, Starry Night” will bring tears to your eyes, some rolling down the canvas of your face.