Reeves gets romantic
Reeves wanted a "Hepburn-Tracey" feel to the film
Keanu Reeves arrives in US cinemas this weekend playing the romantic lead in the tearjerker Sweet November.
This is a big romantic role for Reeves, who has had a diverse career, but is probably best known for his action blockbusters The Matrix and Speed.
In Sweet November Reeves plays Nelson Moss, a driven and selfish San Francisco advertising executive whose life is changed when he meets and falls in love with his polar opposite, a bohemian woman portrayed by Charlize Theron.
Reeves definitely sought out a romantic role, even asking his manager if he could find him a project. He says of Sweet November: "We wanted to have a Hepburn-Tracey feel to it, a classicism, opposites attract feeling."
Sara Deever, the woman with whom Nelson Moss falls in love, is a bewildering character.
Every month she takes on a new boyfriend as a project. Her aim is not to fall in love, but to act as a spiritual mentor to her monthly partners as she tries to solve their problems.
Her motivation is to maintain a sense of being in charge at a time when her life is spinning out of control.
Without giving too much of the plot away, Sweet November is in the tradition of movies like Love Story, where romantic bliss is thwarted by terminal disease.
Reeves explains that Nelson's involvement with Theron's character brings about profound change because "she's a very passionate woman, a very strong-willed woman".
"We fall in love, which is really good therapy," he says.
Sweet November is a remake of a 1968 film of the same title that starred Anthony Newley and Sandy Dennis.
Irish filmmaker Pat O'Connor, whose credits include Cal, A Month In The Country and Dancing at Lughnasa, directs this updated version.
O'Connor is talented, but his new picture doesn't quite work.
Partly it's a problem with casting; there is a lack of sizzle between the leads.
Reeves comes over as wooden, and Charlize Theron, although she tries hard, is too glamorous for a character who is more akin to an overgrown hippy.
Reeves is slightly miffed that a moment in a scene he has with Theron in the bathtub was cut so the film could get an American PG-13 rating, enabling it to be seen by teenagers without an adult in the US.
As Reeves describes it, he and Theron are in the bathtub having an intimate conversation.
He says: "The bit that got cut is that at the end of the scene I go under the bubbles and she starts to laugh. That got cut!"
Whether it's playing a street hustler in Gus Van Sant's 1991 picture My Own Private Idaho, or more recently as a wife-abusing redneck in The Gift, Reeves has often tackled daring and non-commercial work.
He almost bristles at the notion that his action roles are less demanding than his character driven parts.
"There is acting in action pictures, there is nothing different about the work that I have to do to understand a character to bring it alive," he says.
"Thomas Anderson in The Matrix is a character part. The character in Speed, I feel, is a character part. There is no other kind of part."
Unfortunately in Sweet November, Reeves doesn't quite cut it as a romantic leading man.
But the film shows he has grown up, he looks less boyish and more mature in this picture.
It's not that he hasn't got potential because Reeves definitely has charisma and in a different, more unconventional movie he could very well flourish as an intriguing romantic lead.
His Matrix fans will no doubt be pleased to learn that the actor is already in training for a sequel that will go into production at the end of March.