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JULIET, NAKED: JUST THE TICKET FOR LATE SUMMER

Any film that opens with Chris O’Dowd talking directly to the camera is starting on the right foot as far as I’m concerned–I find his attitude and sense of off-kilter humor irresistible. In Juliet, Naked he plays a man who is obsessed with a onetime singer/songwriter who has long since disappeared. His entire existence is given over to pretentious babbling about Tucker Crowe for a small but fanatical fan base online.

After fifteen years, his girlfriend (Rose Byrne) is at the end of her rope. She  questions their relationship and her very existence in a boring seaside village where she runs the historical museum she inherited from her father. One day she posts a response to one of her husband’s essays about a long-lost demo recording by Crowe and receives a response from Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) himself. He’s about to travel to the UK and wants to meet her, which is how and why the plot thickens.

A novel by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) inspired this smart, refreshing comedy, with screenplay credit going to Evgenia Peretz and the team of Jim Taylor and Tamara Jenkins. All the ironies and absurdities of the script are fully realized by director Jesse Peretz (a veteran of such TV series as Girls and New Girl) and a perfectly-chosen cast. It doesn’t hurt to have Judd Apatow as one of your producers.

Although the comedic elements run the gamut from subtle to broad, the characters remain believable throughout. There is an unforced quality to the film that I find very appealing: it’s fresh and original, and the cast simply couldn’t’ be better. Hawke even gets to sing and, as we heard in the Chet Baker biopic Born to be Blue, he’s quite good.

Tired of formula-driven films? Try Juliet, Naked.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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