Film Review: JULIET, NAKED (USA/UK 2018) ***

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Juliet, Naked Poster
Trailer

Juliet, Naked is the story of Annie (the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan) and her unlikely transatlantic romance with once revered, now faded, singer-songwriter, Tucker Crowe, who also happens to be the subject of Duncan’s musical obsession.

Director:

Jesse Peretz

Writers:

Evgenia Peretz (screenplay by), Jim Taylor (screenplay by) | 2 more credits »

JULIET, NAKED is a British/American production set in both London and the U.S. based on the best selling novel of the same name by Nick Hornby.  The novel is described as a sensitive modern tale illustrating the effect the internet can have on a romantic relationship.   The film gets that message across, though it feels like a romantic comedy without a happy Hollywood ending, which means that audiences might have difficulty liking this film.  JULIET, NAKED is not half bad, but it is not barely half good, falling flat and dragging along for a major part.

The story centres on Annie (Rose Byrne) who when the film opens, has relationship problems with long term boyfriend, Duncan (Chris O’Dowd).  Duncan, a professor at a local university has an obsession with singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke).  He is head of the Tucker Crowe website and knows all the works and songs of Crowe.  When a packet of Crowe songs arrives in the mail that Annie opens and listens to, Duncan becomes clearly upset that she has not only opened his mail but listened to Crowe before him.  Duncan also begins an affair with a new professor, that he confesses to Anne.  This is total wishy-washy behaviour and the audience is only too glad to see Annie kick him out of the house.

As the story goes on, Annie meets Crowe in person and begins an affair with him.  The brown stuff hits the fan when Duncan finds out.  Not only does Duncan accuse Annie of doing this to get back at him, but he begins disagreeing with Crowe about his work.

If all this sounds too serious, the film is not, and a lot of humour is injected into the story so that the film can still be labelled as a romantic comedy.  But it is one with a difference as it does not follow the beaten path of the Harlequin-styled story.

All three actors are excellent in their roles.  It is always a pleasure to watch Rose Byrne (NEIGHBOURS and NEIGHBOURS 2) who is always good in anything she is in.  Ethan Hawke, known for his fondness in blues and music gets to sing a few of the songs featured in the film.  O’Dowd who has proven himself proficient in drama (CALVARY) and in comedy (BRIDESMAIDS) makes an unlikable character both likeable and sympathetic.

The film has a few odd segments.  One is the problematic hospital segment where all of Crowe’s children from multiple partners all show up at the hospital when he suffers an unexpected heart attack.  How would they all show up together when they were so difficult to even meet is one question.  They argue and bicker to no end and then are never seen again during the movie.  Annie first meets Crowe at the hospital too and any logical person would have left Crowe or any such person with so much baggage.

JULIET, NAKED is at least good for a few laughs with a few well timed jokes.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwWKaYsNqBM

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Happy Birthday: Chris O’Dowd

chrisodowd.jpgChris O’Dowd

Born: October 9, 1979 in Sligo, Ireland

Married to: Dawn O’Porter (26 August 2012 – present) (1 child)

[re his role in The Sapphires (2012) with Aboriginal girl singers] I was really surprised by how similar Aboriginals and Irish people are, like in their mentality, particularly coming from that time [1960s]… I think it’s why the character as an Irish guy works quite well, because we’re all part of the same team.

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Movie Review: THE PROGRAM (UK/France 2015)

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the_programTHE PROGRAM (UK/France 2015)**
Directed by Stephen Frears

Starrting: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Guillaume Canet, Jesse Plemons, Lee Pace, Dustin Hoffman

Review by Gilbert Seah

Lance Armstrong is infamous the world over. The recent documentary on his disgrace THE ARMSTRONG LIE had informed the world of his demise, and now the fictionalized version is ready to do more of the same. Lance Armstrong (played by Ben Foster) is an American cyclist who won the Tour De France 7 years running. He entertained controversy of his taking performance enhancing drugs (particularly EPO in short). He denied it totally and the world believed him. But after his comeback after a 4-year break, a fellow team member, Floyd Landis (Jesse Plemons) confessed to his and Armstrong’s taking of EPO. The Tour De France stripped Armstrong of all 7 wins.

THE PROGRAM is understandably a French/British co-production as Armstrong obviously not only disgraced himself but the county he represented. THE ARMSTRONG LIE was made and shelved when the disgrace hit the news 3 years later, but released after Armstrong appeared on Oprah.

THE PROGRAM of the title refers to the drug program enforced by the French Doctor, Michele Ferrari (Guillaume Canet), who was eventually banned from practice after word came out of his abuse. When Armstrong realized other cyclists may be using performance enhancing drugs, he begged the doctor to put him on the program at all costs.

It is surprising that Frears and the script by Jon Hodge sees so little time on the Irish reporter, David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd) who uncovered the truth of the story. The film based on Walsh’s book “Seven Deadly Sins’ spends minimum time, showing the reporter’s work and quiet after Armstrong put him to shame. But when he was eventually proven correct, his triumph is just dismissed with the fact that the Sunday Times got their money they initially paid as damages to Armstrong back. Dustin Hoffman, credited in the film also has a one-line scene.

Armstrong is an extremely dislikable man. He shows no humility, is proud and obsessive and full of himself. A film that centres on a lead character with such a personality is obviously going to run into problems. Audiences disliking the lead will most likely dislike the film as a result. Director Frears who has in his carer made some excellent films (PHILOMENA, THE QUEEN) seems at a loss with the character of Armstrong. In his previous films that dealt with unsavoury characters like the pregnant teenage daughter in THE SNAPPER and homosexuality in MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE, Frears used humour and satire to make his movie work. But in THE PROGRAM, Frears uses none of these tactics. He tells the story of the ARMSTRONG LIE in a straight forward story-telling convention. Using standard formulaic biopics story-telling, he charts the rise to fame, and slow downfall of the cyclist, highlighting his winning moments to lift the spirit of the story.

There is absolutely no need to watch another version of a disgraced human human being. Armstrong describes himself as a champion. But in reality he is one who has disgraced the sport and a spineless worm with no conscience. The documentary THE ARMSTRONG LIE has already told the same story and extremely well by Alex Gibney (ENRON, TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE), with the real Armstrong as himself using actual footage of himself at the race without any re-enactments. At least Frears shows him, as the worst person that can be, still trying to convince the world of his ability.

The end credits predictably showing each of the featured characters in real life from Armstrong, to the doctor that enforced the drug program re-enforce the fact that Frears seem to be gnu through the motion with this one.

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