Juliet, Naked

It’s always good strategy to select a provocative film title, as cutting through the advertising clutter remains the prime directive. In this case, the marketing folks at Lionsgate have a good start.

The film comes from the mind of Nick Hornby, who has become a reliable source of romantic comedies. The British novelist has seen several of his books turned successfully into engaging films. “About a Boy” and especially “High Fidelity” each do a good job of weaving the importance of music in a memorable storyline.

Here, the film’s title refers to a mysterious package that arrives one day. It is an acoustic version of demos of an album released a quarter century earlier. (The album title is likely echoing the stripped down version of “Let It Be” that McCartney released years after the original album, peeling away what the bassist thought were overwrought versions of the band’s only album not produced by George Martin).

Ethan Hawke, Rose Byrne, and Chris O’Dowd in “Juliet, Naked”

The album lands on the doorstep of a couple who have decidedly different perspectives on the music. Annie and Duncan are living together unhappily. Duncan has been maintaining a decades long homage to Tucker, a once and (almost) famous musician. Annie (well played by Rose Byrne) thinks the album is rubbish despite protestations by Duncan (Chris O’Dowd in his classic semi-hapless demeanor). Ethan Hawke plays Tucker Crowe (is the last name an homage to Cameron of the same last name?) in good form.

In one of the better uses of an always-excellent song, The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset” is placed strategically in a pivotal scene.

Director Jesse Peretz brings a significant sense of verisimilitude to the proceedings, leveraging his earlier career as bassist for the critics’ darlings Lemonheads, a band that had its heyday in the 1990’s.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.