2018, R, 105 min. Directed by Jesse Peretz. Starring Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O'Dowd, Jimmy O. Yang, Lily Newmark, Megan Dodds.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Aug. 31, 2018
There can be a heavy toll for those that fall squarely in Generation X. There is so much to answer for, but at least those baby boomers behind us screwed things up quite well, that the things? The things that they hoist onto this particular generation? They’re pretty minor, although no less problematic. To wit, the idea of authenticity. It is the reigning sustenance that defines my generation. And I fucking hate it. You know the drill, or perhaps you’ve been bored by it: Everything was better when only a handful of people liked all these cool things and you are not allowed to like these cool things because we say so. You’re a poseur and a fake.
These preoccupations have been the predominate wheelhouse of author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity), and this adaptation of his 2009 novel provides another post-mortem, with scalpel-like clarity, of a particular kind of fandom, whose gender (surprise!) is mostly straight white male.
The story, though, is really about Annie (Byrne), who has put up with boyfriend Duncan (O’Dowd) and his obsession over Nineties indie rock dude Tucker Crowe (Hawke), who disappeared after making a seminal album, Juliet. When Duncan receives a copy of a demo version of the album, the plot starts boiling, as Annie begins an email relationship with the elusive Tucker, after posting a blistering review of the demo on Duncan’s fanboy website, and Duncan enters into an affair with a colleague at the college he works at, where he teaches about television (The Wire as Greek tragedy is good for a few jokes). Annie and Tucker become fast friends, both needing an outlet to share their innermost thoughts and longings for various lives unlived, Annie regretting not having children and resigning herself to an existence of a tepid relationship, and Tucker, living in a garage of his ex-girlfriend, raising his son, as increasingly, more of his scions from various mothers enter his life. These small worlds collide when Tucker goes to England for the birth of his grandchild, meets Annie, and subsequently, his biggest fan, Duncan.
The film has a lot to say, but it thankfully does it in a manner that is natural, gentle, and if you will, authentic. That album is Duncan’s holy grail, and I get it, what Hornby is skewering here, that notion of having something that is yours, that no one else can touch. He obviously knows this milieu, as does Nurse Jackie director Jesse Peretz, who built his reputation directing videos that defined the Nineties indie scene for bands like the Lemonheads and the Foo Fighters. Everyone has obsessions, be they of the pop culture variety or of the path-not-taken variety. To hearken back to this belabored thesis, it is okay to like whatever you like, and it is something I’ve embraced, and a welcome respite from a particular type of fandom and way of life that really is just some stupid club in which you find yourself the only member. But you’re not. This is planet Earth, baby, and we’re all here together, like it or not.