Streaming: curate your own Keanu mini-season
by Guy Lodge
With a never-went-away comeback in full swing, it might be time to seek out the best of Keanu Reeves online
The internet has a new boyfriend, and his name is Keanu Reeves. If you read that, frowned, and thought Keanu Reeves sounds like rather an old boyfriend, you haven’t been spending a lot of time on Twitter, BuzzFeed or any other corners of the web currently inundated with memes, GIFs and florid thinkpieces devoted to the 54-year-old actor. (Even the New Yorker got in on the act, with a profile headlined “Keanu Reeves is too good for this world”.) Thirty years after Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – now getting a second sequel, of course – the Keanaissance is fully upon us.
The major 2019 films on which this never-went-away comeback is pinned – a voice role in Toy Story 4, another glisteningly ludicrous instalment of the John Wick franchise – aren’t exactly peak Keanu. Nor is Destination Wedding, out on DVD this week: a pleasant- enough single-use plastic romantic comedy that reunites him with Winona Ryder (when’s the Winaissance?) and coasts lightly on idle nostalgia and the stars’ combined happy-to-be-here charm.
Reeves’s most strenuously dedicated fans, meanwhile, can seek out his goofy cameo in the new Netflix Original romcom Always Be My Maybe, though it’s one of the streaming giant’s limper efforts in that department. (If he had somehow contrived an appearance in last year’s teen obsession To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, the internet might truly have broken.)
If you’re on a Keanu kick, then, the streaming realm has better options – no enterprising site has yet curated a dedicated mini-season, but you can easily do so yourself. Many fresher-faced fans won’t have seen River’s Edge (available on iTunes), a disconcerting, venom-laced quasi-horror film that made indie waves in 1987 but is rarely talked about these days. The thrashing, punky soundtrack and style have dated a bit, but otherwise this study of disaffected teens managing with a murderer in their midst has held its nerve. It belongs principally to a livewire Crispin Glover, but Reeves – unaffected and affecting, before any dude shtick kicked in – glimmers with obvious star quality.
Then, while we’re in the spirit of Pride month, fast-forward five years to Gus Van Sant’s indelible, heart-bruising queer road movie My Own Private Idaho – streaming on Chili. Acting, of course, has never been exactly the thing about Reeves, but he’s vulnerably credible here as a privilege-born hustler escaping his roots, tenderly supporting River Phoenix’s shattering outcast. It’s the single best film Reeves has ever graced – give or take Kathryn Bigelow’s mad, magnificent brawnfest Point Break, with its surprising waves of surf and subtext. (Head to Rakuten TV to remind yourself of its joys.)
Most of Reeves’s career milestones don’t need to be flagged. I hardly need to tell you to seek out The Matrix, or Speed, or his hilariously off-key, woefully miscast turn in Francis Ford Coppola’s otherwise ravishing Bram Stoker’s Dracula. For a Reeves vehicle that has never been loved quite enough, however, allow to me to point you to his loveliest romantic vehicle. In 2006’s daft but exquisitely weepy time-travel drama The Lake House (streaming on Amazon Prime), Reeves and Sandra Bullock play out a two-years-apart epistolary relationship with such swoony, straight-faced conviction, you can’t not buy into it. Some would call it a guilty pleasure – indeed, some would say the same about Reeves himself – but like Reeves himself, it should be sincerely treasured.