Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Why Do We Love Keanu Reeves?

Keanu Reeves (25448963336) (2).jpg
image by Gordon Correll

I can't think of a single person right now who does not like Keanu Reeves.

This is odd because growing up it was common to make him to butt of jokes, citing his wooden acting or his catch phrase "Whoa."  And yet today all of that seems a distant memory.  He was just at E3, the gaming convention, and brought the house down.

So why, now, is Reeves so popular.

I have a few possible reasons:

1. Body of Work

In his career, Reeves has been in nearly 100 movies.  And in that time he has made some truly bad films (e.g. The Day the Earth Stood Still).  But in that time he has also delivered films of incredible quality.  Granted, he may not have been the main reason for all of these films doing well, but here are a list of movies that were either critically or commercially very well-received:
-Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
-Point Break
-My Own Private Idaho
-Bram Stoker's Dracula
-Much Ado About Nothing
-Little Buddha
-A Walk in the Clouds
-The Devil's Advocate
-The Matrix Trilogy
-Knock, Knock
-The John Wick Movies

Not only has his career spanned four decades (which is of itself an incredible accomplishment), but he has a shockingly diverse filmography.  As much as people made fun of his acting range, he has stepped into so many different genres:  Sports (The Replacements, Hardball), Historical Drama (Dangerous Liaisons), Children's films (Babes in Toyland, Toy Story 4), Independent Darlings (My Own Private Idaho), Comic Book (Constantine), Romance (A Walk in the Clouds, The Lake House), Horror (Knock, Knock), Morality Tale (The Devil's Advocate), and the list goes on.

Because of this, most of the public has experienced Keanu Reeves in some form, usually in multiple genres.  We have gotten to see many different sides of him.  And his body of work that is still watched and enjoyed today is larger than most working actors his age.

Credit must also be given especially to the John Wick movies, which has helped cement his current status as an action icon of the past and the present.

2.  Timeless

This is a reference to a number of his movies, but also to the man himself.  Even though a number of his films are very much of their era (e.g. Bill and Ted), they can still be enjoyed completely today.  I recently showed Bill and Ted's excellent adventure to my students.  Even though the movie is over 30 years old, it still made all of them laugh.

But Reeves himself seems to be timeless.  Or rather, he seems to be ageless.  His current beard and hair configuration may hide some wrinkles, but he has lost none of his potency nor his energy.  Watching the last John Wick, I marveled at his level of physicality, something that would take its toll on a young man in his prime, let alone someone who is 54-years-old!

I don't think we like to admit the fact that we don't like watching our favorite stars get old.  Seeing our old movie heroes lose that power that we remember in our minds can be daunting.  Reeves is doing his best to not let that happen.  When I go in to see the next Indiana Jones movie, I will not expect the same level of action as Raiders of the Lost Ark or even Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  But when I see the next John Wick, I will expect even more out of Reeves, and so far he has not disappointed.

This doesn't just apply to the action.  He plays a romantic interest to Ali Wong in Always Be My Maybe which just came out on Netflix.  Even though he is nearly 20 years older than her, it doesn't feel out of place or time.

3.  Personal Life

I know very little about Keanu Reeve's personal life, and I think that is a great thing.  He has kept his name out of the tabloids and seems like someone who is more interested in being an actor than in being a star.

What I do know is that he lives very modestly.  He has given much of his fortune to charity, particularly cancer charities.  He took a pay cut so that the CGI team on The Matrix Revolutions could get paid what they were owed.  He gets to know the crew on the movies he films.  They all say that he sees himself as just another part of the team, equal to them.  Many of have seen the viral video of Reeves giving up his seat on a subway to a lady who was standing, a simple act of decency, but one that is endearing.

People tell stories about encountering him and relay his graciousness.  I heard one account (one that I cannot verify), that he was eating by himself in a restaurant.  A fan who was eating with his friends, saw Reeves and invited him to dine with them.  To their surprise, he did and was apparently very nice and down-to earth.

I do not know his politics and he has made sure not to foist them on the public.  He is not interested in alienating any potential fans.

4.  Talent and Charisma

As I wrote earlier, people would often make fun of his lack of range.  And to be sure, you can see some of that stiffness in his earlier films.  But Reeves did something that not a lot of movie stars do over four decades: he kept getting better.  In fact, I would say that he is at the height of his powers now.  But even in years past, his growth was tremendous.  His emotional range in The Matrix Revolutions or The Devil's Advocate is phenomenal.  And over time, you can see that he has a more relaxed control over his technique.  He appears much more sure of himself and comfortable in his own skin.

But he also has that X-factor of charisma.  While some take his delivery as wooden, over the years it has become iconic.  No one delivers a line like Keanu Reeves.  No one acts like Keanu Reeves.  Over the years we have become so attuned to Keanu Reeves that he is able to deliver a cinematic shorthand to his performances that creates a deeper connection to his audience.

Very few people will have a career like Keanu Reeves and few ever will.

And the best part is, it feels like he's only getting started.

No comments:

Post a Comment