Watched the film adaptation of Juliet, Naked over the weekend, thanks to a friend’s recommendation. Looking beyond the cliché of ‘book being better than the film’, I thought the film was aptly cast and pleasant, but watching it was nowhere near the experience of reading the book, my personal favourite among Nick Hornby’s novels. My immediate reaction was to reach for the novel and re-read it.
The story centred around the main character Annie who inadvertently spends fifteen years of her youth in a sleepy little town and finds hope at an unexpected place is a paean to fresh starts and second chances. Through Annie’s ex Duncan and his manic fanboying of the pop singer Tucker Crowe, Hornby explores the world of pop music and the obsession of fans over art that overlaps the boundaries of the artist’s life. The pleasure of reading the book comes from how Hornby handles troubled personal situations of the characters with gentle wit and dark humour. The scenes are sharply sketched, moving swiftly across a sleepy English town Gooleness where most of the story is set, parts of San Franciso and a London hospital. The dialogue is a delight, and the characters are layered and interesting, if not exactly likeable.
Reading the novel, one gets closer access to the thoughts and feelings of the main characters, which does not come through the medium of film which though well executed, does not as effectively absorb the viewer. Unlike the novel and film versions of Hornby’s About a Boy, both of which told the same story to the reader/audience. My friend who recommended the film had not read the book, and was unable to comment. I wonder if I prefer the fictional narrative to the screenplay for the detailed and yet, subtle manner in which the story offers hope and redemption to the troubled main characters.