keanu forever: why keanu reeves is perfect
We’ll never stop loving you, Keanu.
“Does anybody have a list of men in Hollywood that won’t eventually disappoint me?” I remember tweeting sometime late last year, at the height of the #MeToo scandal. “Is it maybe just a Post-It note that says ‘Keanu Reeves’?”
Asked to pinpoint how exactly Reeves became the primo symbol of A-List Good-Guy-ness -- meaning, in the context of the movie industry, the kind of quiet kindness that specifically precludes screaming into telephones and slapping women’s asses -- it is difficult to know where to begin. Lately, he has made two dumb, terrific action movies, dripping with bisexual lighting, in the form of John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2, and has established his own publishing imprint, X Artists’ Books. Where the Hollywood norm for the rom-com is to pair a man with a hot girl who’s 20 years his junior, Reeves (53) is set to star alongside fellow icon and millennial-and-Gen-X crush Winona Ryder (46) in a film called Destination Wedding. The result was one of the most charming press tours of the decade, and the revelation that they may have accidentally got married for real, filming Dracula in 1992.
Personally, I have thought of Reeves as the embodiment of Hollywood joy ever since I came across a Reddit thread that detailed his apparently innumerable kindnesses to his co-workers, to his family, and to general members of the public. It records the fact he gave the special-effects team and make-up staff on the numerous Matrix sequels 50 of his $70 million earnings, saying: “money is the last thing I think about. I could live on what I have already made for the next few centuries”. It also states that he gave the stunt team motorcycles; that he became his sister’s caretaker; that he secretly established a leukaemia charity to which he gives a great deal of his movie money; that he likes both cats and dogs; that he still rides the subway; and that his idea of eternal happiness is time with “friends [and] family, with wine and glorious food and happy tidings”.
"Keanu gave the special-effects team and make-up staff on the numerous Matrix sequels 50 of his $70 million earnings, saying: 'I could live on what I have already made for the next few centuries'."
“Whatever!” he exclaimed in an Esquire interview last year when this specific Reddit thread came up. “I’m just a normal guy, man… [but being a good guy] is a nice thing to be known for.” It is nice; it’s also, in his industry, extremely rare. Black Twitter often jokes that it’s only unproblematic white men -- like Paul Rudd -- who age well. An unproblematic Chinese-English-Irish-Portuguese-Hawaiian man, born in Beirut and raised in Canada, Reeves still looks so young at the age of 53 that he is frequently accused of being immortal.
In Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2016 film The Neon Demon, he appeared as a motel-owner and rapist and, when called upon to force Elle Fanning to deep-throat a knife, he reportedly did not display as much élan or force behind the scenes as on the screen. “The knife was rubber,” Fanning later said to New York Magazine. “It wasn’t real. But he was like, ‘Are you okay? Are you okay?’ He was shaking! He’s the most polite guy. He was so sweet.”
He is famously so nice that right around the time of Harvey Weinstein’s exposé, a screenshot circulated of a mocked-up New York Times headline which read Keanu Reeves Is Accused by Several Women of Taking Them on Nice Dates. Reeves is extremely memeable because he does not much mind being memed: he has been Sad Keanu, and Happy Keanu, and in the last few days, Brutal, Horseriding Keanu. While he admits that he would rather not have been seen looking so unhappy while he ate that sandwich, he thinks the Sad Keanu meme is “harmless, good, clean fun”, and “funny”. He’s as comfortable as a queer love interest as he is as the love interest of Diane Keaton. (Ask any sane woman: even given the immaculate interiors and apparent wealth, the most improbable thing about Something’s Gotta Give is Keaton choosing Jack Nicholson over Reeves.)
"While he admits that he would rather not have been seen looking so unhappy while he ate that sandwich, he thinks the Sad Keanu meme is 'good, clean fun'."
Are these enough reasons to love Keanu Reeves? Yes, but here’s one more: contrary to what some critics might suggest, Keanu Reeves can act. “Keanu’s power lies not in transformation or the ability to wrap his mouth around clever word play,” writes the film critic Angelica Jade Bastién, our foremost Reevesian scholar. “Keanu is at his most powerful when film is at its most elemental… A simple glance or curled lip can unfurl lengthy character history or upend expectations. For Keanu, acting isn’t a mode of transformation but a state of being. He transmutes story into flesh.” In other words: he is less unskilled than he is specific in his skills. Like Kristen Stewart, who is also taken for a wooden actor, he has a cowboy’s vibe, a tender, dude-ish mien. He is appalling in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, in part, because there were no dudes in 1893. Consider the dual poles of Ted, the affable time-travelling dolt in Bill and Ted, and My Own Private Idaho’s Scott Favour, a rich, catlike beauty with a sideline as a hustler. Reeves’ deep and California-syncopated drawl can seem goofballish, or louche -- it’s a mark of his extremely sensitive and chill comportment that both feel equally true.