A Rhinestone World (US), May 10, 2010

Movie Hero of the Week – Keanu Reeves*

I had to. Too many serendipitous references to this man have occurred recently for me to let it go without marking it officially. True, he doesn’t quite fit my typical Movie Hero of the Week mould. He hardly deserves “more of the spotlight.” But I feel he is misunderstood, and not well directed. While his intentional “bad acting” doesn’t differ much from his actual acting, I want to offer you a few considerations before we lock and key Mr. Reeves into Dudedom forever.

Disclosure: I had a raging crush on Keanu from 1993-5, ages 12-14. Any YM quiz called the equivalent of “Who Is Your Celebrity Boyfriend” resulted in my being assigned to him. True, I changed all my answers so this would happen. I just want you to know I’m horribly biased. But then again, it’s my blog. It’s all biased. Are my hormones affecting this pick moreso than, say, Edie McClurg? Sure. But bear with me. When it comes to acting, at least, I know what I’m talking about.

Keanu first came into the general public awareness in the form of Ted Theodore Logan of the Bill and Ted’s franchise in 1989. I do own an offering of his from 1986 entitled Brotherhood of Justice. However, since I’m trying to convince you that he is a good actor at times, we shall still begin with Bill and Ted’s.

Like bad singing, idiocy is most deftly performed by those who are not afflicted. I give you Eugene Levy in Waiting for Guffman. After films like A Mighty Wind, we know that Eugene Levy actually has a pretty good set of pipes. But his true comedic genius comes through as tone-deaf Dr. Pearl. Keanu, I hold, is not dumb. Why? Because Ted is dumb. And Ted is funny. Dumbasses don’t understand comedic timing. Ted does. He even nails well-timed shoulder shrugs. This is more difficult than it looks. And, when Ted, upon meeting the Princesses says, “I’m in love, Dude, “ we believe him. Ted, or Keanu rather, is seeing this Princess for the first time, and it reads. And how specific are his heartfelt, “Whoas!”? Very, in this writer’s mind.

With Ted, Keanu risked type-casting. While Point Break allowed him to grow up, it hardly allowed to escape Surfer Dudedom. I don’t offer Point Break as an example of his higher work. (But I do offer it as a really good time.) Yet, in general, he seems to have gravitated toward many weird and indie flicks. My Own Private Idaho is hardly mainstream fare. While he cannot hold a candle to his costars in Much Ado About Nothing , he does something that most people are too vain or scared to do, he surrounds himself with people who are more talented and more accomplished than he. For what other reason than to learn? Certainly any other movie would have made him more money than a Branaugh vehicle. He could have most likely phoned in any role he must have been offered at the time. As a viewer, I get a rare sense from Mr. Reeves; this man has respect for his art, and knows that there is always more to learn. That’s hot. Do I want to pay to watch somebody struggle? I will answer this with a question, “Does this ‘somebody’ look like Keanu Reeves?”

As my second offering in the “Give Keanu a Chance, Man” argument, I give you Little Buddha. Keanu does one thing exceedingly well, that other more prominent actors do not. He achieves a sense of wonder. God love Clooney, but his charm lies in his somewhat bemused and unimpressed attitude. Keanu is on the opposite side of the spectrum, particularly in Little Buddha, seeing each movie world for the respective first time. “Whoa,” indeed. Little Buddha is an innocent, and beautiful movie. And Keanu, as Prince Siddartha, fits right in.

One of my favorite Keanu movies is The Devil’s Advocate. Like Point Break, I cannot offer this to you as an example of his acting ability. I can only offer it to you in sheer fun. His is overwhelmingly miscast as the high-powered Southern attorney. Yet, his horror is real.

Let me finally offer My Own Private Idaho. It’s early nineties gay Hamlet. I say this without the slightest tinge of sarcasm. That’s exactly what it is. He’s kind of perfect. His teenaged Hamlety bravado seems false. Exactly as it should feel. He’s a scared, young runaway in a world of freaks with a narcoleptic best friend. I’d let my defense mechanisms kick in at that point, as well, I think. Teenage/early twenties facade is the least buyable act in the world. And he sells that sense. Perhaps what I’m saying is Keanu gets dealt the difficult role, plays it with youth and innocence rather than cynicism, and then we condemn him for it. The guy is an artist. You don’t have to like his art. But you have to respect that he puts love into what he does. If only I could say that for everything I do. Frankly, it’s something I aspire to.

You’ll notice I blatantly leave out the Matrix movies. I don’t really like them, in all honestly. If I wanted to see grey clothing with holes, I would dig through Will’s closet. But more appropriately, I don’t need to mention them. We’re all aware. Frankly, my favorite Keanu flick is Speed. But that’s not what this post is about. What I want to encourage is seeking out the lesser known Keanu gems. See what Gus Van Sant saw: an innocent. The true problem may be that no one tends to write the male innocent. The ethereal man. And that’s what Keanu is. He’s Depp minus the attitude. He’s Pitt without the chip on his shoulder. He is blissfully not self-aware. There seems to be no air of narcissism about him. He’s from the wrong side of the tracks. But instead of picking fights, he seems more likely to paint. He’s not clever. He’s entirely unique. Truly. Nothing incites controversy like an original. It’s long been said that his name means (in Hawaiian) “cool breeze over the mountain.” Certainly, he’s a breath of fresh air, no?

*What is a movie hero? An un or under-sung member of the film making community who deserves more of the spotlight. And yet lack of such a spotlight often adds to their charm.




Tagged:

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure , Brotherhood of Justice , Point Break , My Own Private Idaho , Much Ado About Nothing , Little Buddha , Devil's Advocate, The , Matrix, The , Speed





Comments

Ruthieno air of narcissism (2010-05-11 20:34:41)
 I agree that K seems to lack the 'attitude' we most often see from even the most well-intentioned in Hollywood, though I wouldn't say he isn't clever. For an acting career that has spanned more than 20 years, there has to be more than good luck, good acting, and good representation - I'd say he's had to be very clever as well.
Guestability (2010-05-12 04:48:30)
 Actually, I've often said his ability is to create believable characters. So believable that people think they see him, not the character, and discount that he was acting! That is quite the compliment! And I do agree with a premise you've stated here, that he seems to be striving for "what more can I learn?" And maybe, just maybe, that is also a reflection of his aim for his life, not just his job.(!)
nafsunaek
(2010-05-12 05:13:19)
 I think you are right. That's what makes him unique.
Guestclever (cunning) (2010-05-12 06:24:54)
 It seems "cunning" should be used at close of the article. (clever is alert, skillful, marked by wit or ingenuity, stresses physical or mental quickness, deftness, or great aptitude) (cunning implies great skill in constructing -- in this sense, constructing a false air about one, which Keanu doesn't do) (per Meriam Webster)
GuestCaroline (2010-05-12 11:36:38)
 
It seems that everyone is a critic and is so quick to unfairly disparage Keanu not only as an actor but as a fellow human being.  In spite of this, he has remained a very grounded person.

Keanu is an artist that refuses to cater to Hollywood's unrealistic demands. The demands that more often than not have resulted in tragic and/or unfavorably longlasting outcomes for many actors.

Though Keanu's acting abilities may not necessarily scream Oscar caliber, he clearly has had some staying power over the last nearly three decades when compared to many of his comtemporaries. Perhaps he really is smarter and is deserving of more accolades and credit than most are willing to give him.  Keanu wholeheartedly embraces his profession with great passion regardless of the unwarranted and constant bashing.
 
I would suggest that many young actors today take a page from Keanu's "character" book on how to handle themselves if they are to ever have a fighting chance to survive all that Hollywood has to offer! 

I would not be the least bit surprised if at the end of the day, Keanu chuckles all the way to the bank...

Forever a fan...iheartkeanu!

GuestPerfect. (2010-05-12 18:11:10)
 I love how the author paints Keanu as the misunderstood artist. Wonderful.
Guestability (caliber) (2010-05-13 01:16:16)
 Dear Caroline, ...and in addition to your points, perhaps the "minimalist" acting style, so often attributed to him, is 180 degrees opposite from where he is, as a being. Thus, his skill is of a higher caliber than recognized. (Case in point, have you seen the technical clips at the end of "The Matrix", where it goes over how Bullet Time is done, as well as out-takes of the Lobby Scene, etc, etc. He is quite annimated!)
AngelWitch
I do not presume to know the man (2010-05-15 17:58:14)
 Sometimes I think a few people make the mistake of attributing personality traits from characters he has portrayed on film to the man himself, for example Ted 'Theodore' Logan was not the brightest crayon in the box so therefore Keanu must be dumb as well. To me this only proves that he is doing what an actor is suppose to do, disappearing into the role. Yes I suppose it would be nice to put together like a patchwork quilt a pseudo personality for him. But I personally like the mystery.
he is a great artist and as he himself has said he is autodidact student of life.
(BTW: that quote may not be exactly precise)
LucaM
(2010-05-17 02:40:56)
 I like the analysis of MOPI. I didn't like Scott as a character, but I really like how K played him. (and especially the deleted scene with Scott and Bob).
But I think this article could have included also K's 'post-Matrix' movies. Because his acting definitely improved post-Neo. Can't explain how, but there's more gravity to it. More depth. Or maybe I'm just seeing things.
nafsunaek
(2010-05-17 03:06:34)
 I think he got more mature. A combination of age and experience.
GuestCaroline (2010-05-18 16:10:32)
 Dear "Ability,"

Yes, I don't miss Keanu's movie featurettes. They're definitely fun to watch, quite informative, and seeing him candidly express his enthusiasm for his project at hand is a definite must-see! Though he seems a bit hard on himself when he doesn't feel that he got his shot just right.

By the way, the lobby scene is one of my faves - hot!

Guestability (patchwork quilting) (2010-06-12 04:31:55)
 dear "AngelWitch", agreed. he disappeared into the various role(s), but there's also a trace of him in each role. all one has to do is con sider if someone ELSE played a certain character, to maybe "bring out into the light" that essence that is Ke.(!)

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