Following in her late father’s footsteps, Annie (Rose Byrne) manages a municipal history museum in Sandcliff, a British seaside town, while struggling to maintain her long-term relationship with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), who is obsessed with ‘90s alternative-pop rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), now vanished into obscurity.
When an unreleased Tucker Crowe demo ‘Juliet, Naked’ arrives in the mail, Duncan is ecstatic. Sensible Annie is far more critical of the motley selection of outtakes, expressing her distaste in an acerbic comment on Duncan’s website.
To her surprise, Annie receives a personal reply from the reclusive musician himself, thanking her for disliking the bootleg CD as much as he does.
After a trans-Atlantic e-mail flirtation, Tucker suddenly appears in Annie’s life, toting his adorable son Jackson (Azhy Robertson). The timing coincides with Duncan’s blossoming affair with a colleague named Gina (Denise Gough).
Based on Nick Hornby’s 2009 novel, it’s predictably adapted by Evgenia Peretz, Tamara Jenkins and Jim Taylor and directed by Evgenia’s brother, Jesse Peretz, the founding bass player with the 1980s American indie band Lemonheads, who went on to helm TV’s “Nurse Jackie,” among other series.
Ethan Hawke says, “For an actor, I’m not a bad singer.” But he’s not very good either. Genial, light-hearted faking doesn’t always resonate, even under the supervision of Nathan Larson, who scored and produced the music, featuring Robyn Hitchcock and Ryan Adams, among others.
On the other hand, Rose Byrne’s ditsy comic timing is remarkable.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Juliet, Naked” is a superficially satirical, soulful 6. Nobody’s naked and Juliet’s non-existent in this romantic comedy about life’s second chances.