A No. 1 fan, as anyone who’s ever seen Misery knows, is a dangerous thing. But the love Duncan (Chris O’Dowd) has for Tucker Crowe, “one of the most seminal and yet unsung figures of alternative rock,” is mostly just a drag to his long-suffering girlfriend, frustrated museum curator Annie (Rose Byrne). Their little life together in a picturesque seaside village seems depressingly settled until, in a twist of internet fate, Annie connects with the actual Crowe (Ethan Hawke, apparently doubling down on his bird-surname destiny).
Working from Nick Hornby’s novel, director Jesse Peretz (Girls, GLOW) has made the kind of shaggy, low-key comedy whose modesty is half its charm. O’Dowd’s Duncan is the perfect archetype of an insufferable culture vulture, a film professor who regales students with his elaborate theories (don’t they know The Wire is really just a stand-in for Greek myth, and also Dickens?) and buries Annie in indie-rock esoterica.
Hawke, fresh off the surreal intensity of his disturbed minister in First Reformed, is all shambolic flannel and regret as a star who walked away at the peak of his ’90s-demimonde fame and disappeared into legend — or, more accurately, an ex-wife’s garden shed. (There are also some great vintage images of “Crowe,” thanks to his inhabiter’s well-documented decade as a broodily goateed icon of ’90s cinema).
Much like the book, the plot is essentially a wisp, and Byrne is far too luminous for her sad-sack role. But Juliet still feels winning; the small, sweet grace note on a familiar melody. B+