The Essence of Keanitude
December 8, 2008 1 Comment
Oftentimes, studios refuse to provide advance screenings to critics when they think a movie is going to bomb. This was the case with “Australia,” which is presently dropping like a rock at the box office.
It’s also true of “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” which updates the classic 50’s sci-fi flick, in which aliens threaten to destroy Earth if humans won’t stop blowing each other up and threatening galactic harmony, with a more eco-friendly theme: this time, they’re threatening to destroy humanity in order to save the biodiversity of earth. How crunchy!!!
Thus robbed of an opportunity to screen the film before it comes out, NY POST writer Sara Stewart instead reflects on “Keanitude” – the ability of Keanu Reeves to simultaneously embody the ultimate in terrible acting, male babesmanship and superb movie star power.
What, exactly, is ‘Keanitude’?
“It means, ‘Of, from, or conveying the essence of Keanu,’ ” says Lara Naaman, TV writer and longtime Reeves enthusiast. “Keanitude is the ratio of hot to mysterious that Mr. Reeves expresses in each film. The mystery being: ‘Is he dumb, or is he just f – – – ing with us?’ ”
It is a question that has kept countless Keanu scholars up at night – and his new movie, out Friday, doesn’t look likely to hold any new answers. In “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” Reeves plays perhaps the most perfect distillation yet of Keanitude: He’s an alien who’s been sent to Earth in human form.
“That’s an inscrutable character – that’s going to call up some stuff that happens a lot,” says Alex Winter, a k a Bill of the “Bill & Ted” movies, who is still close to his ’80s co-star.
The “stuff” to which he’s referring? The recurring refrain that when Reeves plays an enigmatic role with a limited emotional range, it’s not exactly acting.
Though nobody at The Post has yet been allowed to see the film (never a good sign), we can still deduce that this will conform to a couple of the key tenets of a choice Keanu role:
1. Does mass salvation or destruction lie in his hands?
2. Does his character seem, well, kind of spaced out? Not quite there? Otherwise engaged? Just plain . . . blank?
“Keanu’s blankness – the thing he’s most criticized for – has been the secret of his success,” says Brian J. Robb, author of “Keanu Reeves: An Excellent Adventure.”
We just want to interject that the panel of experts that Stewart surveyed for this piece – from Keanu biographer Robb to “Sassy” founder Jane Pratt to Keanu’s “Bill & Ted” costar Alex Winter – is a entertaining cast of characters unto themselves.
Anyway, as Stewart explains with help from her special guests, Keanu’s essential Keanitude makes him uniquely suited to engage a wide variety of audiences and interpretations. What some might simply call horrible acting, Keanu’s biggest fans call “minimalism.”
At his best, as with the Christ-like Neo in “The Matrix,” it’s an integral part of his character. At its most dubious – often involving an accent, as in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “Dangerous Liaisons” – he’s been critically savaged for being, dramatically, in way over his head.
Whether you love him or hate him, Reeves isn’t going anywhere. He’s one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, thanks in no small part to legions of longtime fans who liked what they saw in “My Own Private Idaho” or “Point Break,” and keep coming back for variations on the same.
Or as John “Not the Lost character” Locke would say, he’s like a tabula rasa that each audience member gets to design for him or herself… Excellent!
Frankly, this article is a lot more entertaining than any review of the movie will be (whenever they deign to let a critic see it). So far, eco-disaster-releated films have been pretty weak, so we don’t expect this one to be any different.
Therefore we thank Fox for withholding the film, thus allowing Ms. Stewart to consider the far more compelling topic of Keanitude.
Before you head off to read the full article, enjoy this moment of movie magic. This is the “Play it again, Sam” of the 1980s.