50/50 Review #5: Naked.

Let me take you through my thought process with this film: "This seems like a really random film for Travis to put on the list. I've never even heard of this. Hey, this director has made three movies starring Hogwarts professors. And he has the same birthday as me. OK, let's start this thing. Wow... rape in the opening seconds. Classic. Ha, David Thewlis makes a werewolf joke. This movie is really uncomfortable... but I can't look away. (Two hours later.) I think... I think I loved this movie."

And so we have Naked. Johnny (David Thewlis) goes on the run to London from his Manchester home after raping a woman and being threatened a beating. He goes to his ex-girlfriend Louise's (Lesley Sharp) apartment, where he meets her emotionally unstable friend, Sophie (Katrin Cartlidge). Sophie eventually smothers him until he leaves, putting him homeless and on his own. He runs into random people on the street and has philosophical discussions with them, whether they want to be involved or not. Meanwhile, a total sociopath named Jeremy (Greg Cruttwell) goes around freaking people out and raping them.

This is a movie with no real story. It's a film of character and theme, though nothing might be particularly clear at first. Despite that, the writing and dialogue is some of the best I've heard in a long time. Sure, it sounds like a philosophy major got really stoned, wrote down everything that came to mind, sobered up, and then polished the script a little. But that's one intelligent stoner. The dialogue is a mile-a-minute and whip smart, and if you don't pay attention, you'll miss the humor of it all.

Because, really, this is a very dark comedy. Some of the characters are idiots, most are utterly despicable, and our main character is, by and large, a complete bastard. If you let it, the movie can drag you down and make you see it as a difficult, painful, and depressing look at civilization. And although it seems the film is full of jokes and nobody is laughing, you have to roll with the punches.

On top of the writing, David Thewlis gives one of the best damn performances I've ever seen. I had to look up why he wasn't awarded (or even nominated) for an Oscar. Apparently this is considered one of the great upsets, as he was award the honor at Cannes, as was director Mike Leigh. But this was the year of Schindler's List, The Piano, and Philadelphia. Talk about a tough year. But anyway, Thewlis perfectly spits out his masterful dialogue, making everything seem effortless. And though you can't stand him at first, he does (believe it or not) grow on you. Again, despite being a total creep and bastard.

The film isn't perfect. The women are shown as idiots insofar as you're constantly questioning why they're allowing this guy into their homes. Also, even though the writing and performances are completely mesmerizing/hypnotic, there's absolutely no reason this film needed to be 2 hours (it's slightly more, but barely). By the end, the philosophical nature of the film starts to weigh on you, and you get tired out from having to keep up with the speed-talk and accents presented throughout the film. I know that I felt drained by the time the third act came around.

Still, it's a fantastic little film. The beginning is tough to get through, but if you can get through that, it's definitely worth the watch. The writing and acting alone is worth it. Oh, and I now understand why Travis put this on his list for me. I'm glad it was there, and I actually hope to see it again in the future.

A Keanu 'Whoa'


  1. Yeah, it's a great movie. If you haven't seen much other of Mike Leigh, he's a director who really creates textured, fascinating characters that you don't see in the movies very often. Naked's probably my favorite, but he's made a ton of great stuff.

  2. Yeah I'm glad you liked the movie as much as you did. When I was putting my list together I went in picking Criterion films that I liked that were readily available. Little did I know I'd give you Hausu, Videodrome and Naked back to back to back. But I do enjoy those movies and yeah the initial minutes of the film are slightly hard to sit through if you aren't expecting it but it is a wonderful film. And I'm with the guy above me, Mike Leigh has made some good movies


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