Annie and Duncan are a reasonably happy couple in their late thirties living in a seaside town in England. Duncan has an obsession - he hosts a fan page for nineties musician Tucker Crowe. Crowe is a kind of Jeff Buckley like singer who disappeared after recording one great album - Juliet, Naked.
During a fight Annie leaves a harsh review on the fan site and subsequently receives an email from Tucker himself. They slowly begin to correspond unbeknownst to Duncan as she confides in Tucker her doubts about her relationship.
Rose Byrne is charming and aside from her occasional accent slips (why not not just make her Australian? ) very believable as a shy but intelligent Annie. I would have liked to see her comedic chops tested a bit more. Byrne in 2015’s Spy showed she is one of the funniest working actors today and she rarely gets to show it. Ethan Hawke plays Tucker Crowe and does a good job being a kind but useless father but still holds a certain charisma. I suppose it did help he was really famous in the nineties and probably not as big a name now. He has had an interesting year with the incredibly bleak (but also brilliant ) First Reformed which makes for a pretty great double bill as there is one theme that runs thought both films. We are all familiar with Chris O’Dowd as Duncan and his schtick at this stage but it still works for me. He has got a bit of a nasty edge here too which does give him more to do than just be the goofy Irish guy with a funny voice.
I laughed more than anyone in the screening I was at so that may tell you something. I have a bit of a blind spot for Nick Hornby. I really love everything he writes. For a Nick Hornby fan part of the fun here is his perspective switch. In Hornby’s other works he treats his protagonists’ obsessions with music, sports, and pop culture as admirable. The football stat obsessed Paul from Fever Pitch and Rob the vinyl collecting music nerd from High Fidelity. But here Duncan comes across like someone with this kind of obsession would in real life. Selfish and childish and a bit weird, to obsess over a cassette tape recording of a live show from an obscure singer in 1994 is not charming. It is weird and at a certain age it is maybe a bit embarrassing? However as I type this I am looking at a framed photograph of Han Solo so I am not saying I do not get it. I am just saying it is nothing to be proud of. This is not the text we need about the toxicity of online fandom which is surely coming soon but it is a start.
This time of year we are bombarded with weighty Oscar bait and will be till March. It is great to see an enjoyable little romcom slip though the release cracks. There are tropes here we have all seen before, and you may well be able to guess the outcome of the movie from not just the trailer but the poster. But that does not mean it is not a lot of fun getting there, and on a cold wet November night it is well worth a trip to the cinema.