"Get Shorty" star from County Roscommon, Chris O'Dowd is one of the hardest working Irish screen stars and suddenly he's everywhere!
From the critically acclaimed TV show Get Shorty (which just started its second season this week) to his endearing turn as an incorrigible Irish man-baby who refuses to grow up in Juliet, Naked (opening wide next week), he's entering a whole new level of global fame.
They say you're not properly famous until your face is on posters at John F. Kennedy airport. Posters with your mug smiling down at at the passing public at our major train stations like Penn also qualify and by those two particular yardsticks actor Chris O'Dowd has finally arrived.
Suddenly he's everywhere, on TV, on our movie screens and smiling on the aforementioned giant advertising billboards all over town. Not bad for a boy from Boyle, County Roscommon, but at 38, O'Dowd is now very much his own man.
Being a hugely in-demand actor and being an attentive husband are not always the same thing however, as this rather pointed Tweet from his playwright wife Dawn O'Porter (she added the O' as a tribute to him) this week indicates: “Hey @BigBoyler hope you're well... Just to let you know we've been together just over 9 years and married 6 years next week. Would you like me to add it to your iCal? Dawn xx...”
Ouch. You have to cut O'Dowd some slack in his personal life, though. The second season of his acclaimed TV show Get Shorty broadcasts this week and his lovely, understated new film Juliet, Naked, based on the bestselling book by Nick Hornsby, opens in theaters this Friday.
It's a busy time for the Irish actor, who is consistently excellent in every role he's cast in. Some of his recent film's have been huge critical and box office hits, like Bridesmaids and some have fallen off the cultural radar pretty quickly like The Cloverfield Paradox, but they all have one thing in common, he's always really good in everything.
That consistency, and the fact that after every role he performs you can't imagine another actor ever being cast in the part, brings him the plum gigs. O'Dowd can play comedy, drama, a love interest or a villain, and sometimes all four at once with a degree of ease that's unrivaled by other Irish screen stars.
This week he's playing an entitled Irish man-baby who can't let go of his glory days as a onetime hipster in Juliet, Naked, based on the book by big screen favorite Nick Hornby. O'Dowd plays Duncan, an obsessive fan of the fictitious indie songwriter Tucker Crowe.
Tucker, played by Ethan Hawke, is a lo-fi 90's legend who went underground 25 years earlier and hasn't been heard from since. Only Duncan and ten thousand other internet acolytes keep his lonely flame burning, hoping to one day hear where their hero went and why he unceremoniously up and left the music business.
Meanwhile Duncan's long suffering girlfriend Annie (played by Rose Byrne) is beginning to suspect that she's the real silent partner in Duncan's lifelong affair with a missing rock star. At 40, she's inherited her father's job and is starting to fear the last fifteen years of her life were all a terrible mistake (especially the living with Duncan part).
Things come to a head when Duncan uploads a coveted stash of just discovered Tucker Crowe recordings to the internet she decides to anonymously weigh in under a screen name to tell him and the entire Tucker fan community exactly what she thinks of the music and the man. It's not pretty.
Annie's post gets a big email response but the most surprising one comes from the shadowy Tucker Crowe himself, who agrees with her withering opinion on the lack of quality of the long forgotten music.
Before you can say illicit romance, Tucker and Annie have become confidants. She tells him all about her comfortable but unsatisfying life in a little seaside town in England (she wants kids, Duncan doesn't) and Tucker tells her a little about the trail of broken hearts and abandoned children he's left in his wake.
What Juliet, Naked gets right from the very beginning is its tone of midlife melancholy, where what if's have slowly calcified into if-only's. There's a lovely bittersweet quality to all the exchanges between the three leads that rings very true about good people trying to remain good in a world where goodness doesn't really matter.
O'Dowd plays against type as a more than slightly obsessive rock fan who hasn't really recognized that his lifelong interest in a long vanished mystery musician is really just a way to hold off adult life and responsibility. He finds Duncan's righteousness and inability to recognize how to give his partner what she needs in order to grow because he can't find it in himself.
There's a sadness to O'Dowd portrait that comes from watching a man casually risk his future happiness and the thing that completes him on a quick affair with someone who apparently “gets” his Tucker Crowe obsession in a way that Annie never has or will.
Meanwhile the correspondence between Tucker and Annie herself is getting increasingly intimate. When he decides to visit England to reach out to casualties of his previous philandering he quickly engineers a meetup with the only person he still confides in who isn't actually a fan.
Rose Byrne, 39, the Australian actress of Irish and Scottish ancestry, is winning in the role of this put upon young English woman who is ready for life to show her some kind of escape route. Sophisticated, funny and almost constantly uncertain, she knows what she doesn't want more than what she does.
In Tucker Crowe, actor Ethan Hawke, 47, has found one of his most sympathetic roles in recent years as the recluse rocker who wants to dip a toe back into the current of life. Hawke plays this heartbroken has been with a lovely understated grace that signals you're probably going to forgive him from the film's first frame.
The truth is Juliet, Naked is formulaic in the same way his breakout hit About A Boy was. Unlikely coincidences help to move the plot along, but if you don't mind the occasional groaner then then you'll likely be carried by the winning performances from the three leads.
Last year O'Dowd won plaudits for his turn in Get Shorty as a career criminal who's ship comes in via a movie script he steals from a man he has murdered. What followed was a hair-raising ride through the criminal underworld and Hollywood (not so far apart, it turns out) as O'Dowd threatens and compels his associates to come on board the project in an offer they can't refuse.
The new season of Get Shorty begins on Epix this week and this season O'Dowd's character has become even more violent and unprincipled in pursuit of his one ticket out of a life of crime. What hasn't changed is his way with delivering a droll line or the strength of the show's characterization and writing.
O'Dowd seems to have a canny knack of knowing which horse to back and that instinct is really paying off this year. If you haven't seen his work since The I.T. Crowd this is the week to catch an Irish star on the rise.