Keanu Reeves shows lighter side at Toronto fest with heist flick 'Henry's Crime'
by Andrea Baillie
TORONTO - Keanu Reeves seems like he's doing just fine, thanks.
Fans launched an online "Cheer Up Keanu" campaign a few months back after the Canadian actor was photographed sitting on a park bench eating lunch and generally looking gloomy.
But Reeves says he doesn't remember feeling down in the dumps.
"I don't think (I needed cheering up)," an affable Reeves said this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. "I think that's one of those things where an image can evoke different feelings but not necessarily be telling the truth."
Indeed, Reeves has been showcasing his comic side at the festival with the sharp-witted heist flick "Henry's Crime," co-starring James Caan and Vera Farmiga.
Reeves plays the title character, a Buffalo, N.Y., toll booth operator who is sleepwalking through life until he is framed in a bank robbery and is sent to jail. Upon his release, he hatches a plan to break into the bank. His logic? If he's done the time, he may as well do the crime.
While Reeves is, of course, well known for his action work in "The Matrix" series, he's also turned to more adult fare in recent years with 2003's "Something's Gotta Give" and last year's "The Secret Lives of Pippa Lee."
"Henry's Crime" offers up a mix of smart comedy with a touch of melancholy. Living in frigid Buffalo, heading to and from work like an automaton, Reeves' Henry slowly comes alive throughout the course of the film.
"The whole idea of the script was ... this guy who works in a toll booth who we meet in the beginning, who we find out doesn't have a dream, the nicest guy in his yearbook ... as he says, 'I was just going along, I didn't know I could change it,'" said Reeves.
A big part of that change comes about through Henry's relationship with Julie (Farmiga), a frustrated actress best-known for starring in a TV commercial for the local lottery. Julie is planning on leaving Buffalo for greener pastures right after wrapping a production of Anton Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard," in which Henry inexplicably lands a role.
There's great chemistry and banter between the three leads and Reeves had high praise for both Farmiga — who was one of the stars of last year's festival in "Up in the Air" — and Caan, who plays Henry's cell mate Max.
"(James Caan) kind of rolls up his sleeves. He came to my house in Los Angeles to do a table read, he had really strong opinions about the characters," said Reeves.
Henry's emotional journey is effectively mirrored by the setting of the film — the frigid, rundown streets of Buffalo, as well as a spectacular night scene at Niagara Falls.
"There was something about a place that had a storied past, that has had some hard knocks but has an indomitable spirit," said Reeves. "When you go there, the people are great ... There's a certain light there, the sky is kind of low. ... The look of the film was supposed to be this kind of in-between world that kind of warms up through the theatre."
There's not yet word on a release date for "Henry's Crime." The Toronto International Film Festival wraps up Sunday.