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The Grace of Keanu Reeves 

Our sometimes contributor Angelica Bastien wrote a great piece for Bright Wall / Dark Room called "The Grace of Keanu Reeves" in which she argues against the common dismissals of his acting ability. As a longtime fan of Keanu (Point Break/Private Idaho being the peak era of devotion) this was a joy to read.

One of her greatest points deals with "the crossroads of virile and vulnerable, territory previously charted by actors as legendary as Montgomery Clift, James Dean, and Paul Newman. But there's a difference.

These actors often seem to fight against the lustful gaze of the camera, while Keanu supplants himself to it. Where they seem cynical, disinterested, or too wounded as a romantic lead, Keanu is utterly open.

In "Point Break," he’s a hotshot with a gun and a badge. But he’s also an object of lust for the camera (and audience), with a disarmingly open smile. Furthermore, without the help of a woman—the short-haired pixie vixen surfer Tyler (Lori Petty)—he wouldn’t be able to integrate himself into the gang of robbers/surfers led by Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). This artful dynamic—a woman of greater skill guiding a passive man into a world beyond his imagination—develops even further in "The Matrix" (1999). Some of this, of course, exists on a plot level. But Keanu tends to let his scene partners take the lead, becoming almost a tabula rasa on which they (and we) can project our ideas of what it means to be a hero, a man, a modern action star. 

Do check it out. And share your feelings about Keanu in the comments. This article brought the guilt down that I have yet to see John Wick (2014). 

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Reader Comments (11)

I thought he was terrific in The Lake House, a movie I don't hear people discuss...ever.

February 10, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

^@MDA, have to also agree with you on Lake House.

Nathaniel, you should definitely see John Wick. Not the best movie by any means, but really fun and Keanu doing really great!

February 10, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChris James

I definitely think he's just waiting for a smart director to match his gifts to the right role. I remember him being a bright spot of Mike Mills's THUMBSUCKER and finally feeling like a director "got" him.

Keanu aside, Angelica's work is always fabulous and this piece is no different!!

February 10, 2016 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

Keanu, a very underrated actor.

February 10, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

Yeah, I thought John Wick was...good. Not a masterpiece by any stretch, and maybe in need of a moment or two of hammy symbolism (think "John Wick snipes someone with an empty dog cage behind him" to grasp the kind of thing I'd have wanted) to tie itself together.

February 10, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I saw Keanu Reeves on stage, live, playing Hamlet. So yes, he can wrap his mouth around clever word play. Hamlet is a demanding part, the lengthiest of all Shakespearean roles, physically, emotionally and spiritually demanding, especially doing 8 performances a week. Reeves got excellent reviews and he was great.

He is so generous with his fellow actors, and rather than "filling the space", he inhabits it, aware of everyone in it. To explain it to myself, I thought of him as a "salamander of fire". Smooth and cool on the surface, but burning inside. And capable of such quick movement that you don't even notice how he got to a different place.

I look forward to seeing his next movie, The Whole Truth, with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, directed by Courtney Hunt (Frozen River).

February 10, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteradri

hes good here and there

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterkris

I can't, I just can't.

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Paul: The Internet and Millennials are responsible for everyone and everything deserves to be argued for.

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

ITA, The Lakehouse is so underrated. Beautifully constructed, pardon the pun.

I had such a crush on him when he was young. OMG, Dangerous Liaisons and Parenthood. Sigh.

He definitely has a presence and is easy on the eyes. He has the capacity to bring a natural emotional transparency to certain roles--that cannot be denied. He was absolutely terrific in Something's Gotta Give.

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I completely agree with brookesboy that "he definitely has a presence and is easy on the eyes. He has the capacity to bring a natural emotional transparency to certain roles--that cannot be denied."
I've really only seen his stuff from the 80s and 90s when he was much younger, but he does seem so vulnerable and sweet in his movies, yet he still always has a presence that makes you want to watch him and believe in him. Especially when he was really young, he seems like a puppy. Innocent and sweet and kind. Of course this is just from seeing him acting in front of cameras, but still, its a natural thing that comes across. In Bill and Ted, two conceited guys could have easily been chosen and done the fake accent and been completely annoying and pretentious. How many 24 year olds could play a teen so good as he did in that movie? It could have been a really annoying movie, but he and the guy who plays Bill make it funny and make it work. I like 80s stuff, and I found this old Canadian direct to video of one of his first roles (its called Flying but had like 3 titles) and he is so naturally sweet, you can definitely tell thats just how he was. He was just being himself and just saying the lines.
Im not sure about once he got older but of course he got much more mature and less puppy-like. I watched Much Ado About Nothing for school and unlike most i thought he made a great mean villian. You can tell he is a bit odd but he is not stuck up and snobby like most. He made such a great action hero because he didn't try to act macho, he just looked cool and did the part.

November 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKailani

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