Movie Review: Permanent Record

Dennis suggests Permanent Record (in Feature Drama).  I try to be fair.  I watch a lot of movies, like a lot, and in doing so I necessarily form opinions, or judgments if you will, about the actors and directors whose work I see, and, because I have those pesky standards that the majority of the moviegoing public seem to get along without, there are some actors, directors, etc. whom I have, on the basis of the manner in which they ply their trades, come to genuinely dislike.  Hate even.  And while I find it hard to hate someone as essentially harmless as he is, Keanu Reeves has secured his place firmly on my “is this some sort of joke?” list of people I suspect are either the perpetrators or the victims of a vast conspiracy to make them famous in despite of their seeming lack of any laudable qualities whatsoever.   Like someday it’ll be revealed that the whole “Keanu Reeves- major actor” phenomenon has been a sophisticated sociological experiment designed to prove exactly how gullible and standard-less the viewing public can be.  I mean, seriously: the hooded, inexpressive eyes, that monotone surfer drawl voice, the motions, and facial animation, of a tangled marionette…I mean am I missing something?  Is everyone else in on this except me?  Did anyone else get stomach cramps from his typically-wooden lump of a performance smack in the middle of the otherwise-delightful Much Ado About Nothing (Keanu does Shakespeare?!?!)?  Anyway, like I said, I try to be fair, and it is in that spirit that I heartily recommend the early Keanu teen suicide drama 1988’s Permanent Record.  Keanu plays the best friend of the unfortunate dude who takes the big leap, and, I’ve got to admit, he’s not bad.  Sure, the whole “dumb but pleasant stoner dude” role is right in his wheelhouse, but Reeves is affecting as he tries to make sense of what his seemingly-more together pal has done.  Nice, sensitive direction by Marisa Silver (the opening scene introducing all of the characters is masterfully understated), and a great score by the late, great Joe Strummer.  See, I can give credit where credit is due.  Even to Keanu Reeves.

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Published in: on June 30, 2009 at 12:18 am  Comments (9)  
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  1. Yep, Keanu does Shakespeare. He’s been obsessed with Shakespeare since his teenage years, and that’s where he first got noticed as an actor. After entering Hollywood he got a reputation for reciting Shakespeare to himself to calm himself down or psych himself up – for example on the set of Speed, or when just walking down the street, or during interviews in answers to questions.

    He also played Hamlet in 1995, and The Sunday Times’ theatre critic Roger Lewis declared him one of the three best Hamlet’s he had ever seen, noting that Keanu’s performance on the last night was far better than on the first (when most reviewers and critics had seen him) due to a decrease in stage fright.

    Have you seen any footage of Keanu in real life? He’s a complete opposite from the characters he plays onscreen, full of life and vitality and energy (suspected ADHD case actually) and a great sense of humour.

    That’s acting, that is.

    – Anakin McFly
    Keanu SWAT Team
    http://www.whoaisnotme.net

  2. Yeah, he’s a terrible actor. Sorry. He had a LOT of time to prepare for his role as Don John in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, directed by Kenneth Branagh, no less, and he was an embarrassment. I’m happy that Mr. Reeves likes Shakespeare, and he seems like a nice enough fella. He is also a lousy actor, sorry. (See the brilliant Canadian series ‘Slings and Arrows’ whose first season is clearly patterned after Reeves’ attempt at ‘Hamlet’; it’s a brilliant and sympathetic, but clear-eyed examination of a talented director’s attempt to mold a clearly in-over-his-head prettyboy Hollywood actor into an acceptable Hamlet).

  3. I haven’t seen Much Ado About Nothing so I can’t comment on that, but from what I’ve seen, Keanu’s performance there got fairly mixed reviews. Some critics who normally dislike his acting actually thought he did a good job.

    On what basis are you declaring Keanu a lousy actor? How many of his films have you actually seen?

    Also, the ‘talented director’ in question is Lewis Baumander, who personally wanted to direct Keanu in Hamlet because he had been impressed by Keanu’s performance as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet back in 1983 and 1985, which he directed:

    “Most of the kids coming in wanted to get any part at all. The ambitious ones tried for Romeo. Then in walked Keanu with a passion, a hunger and a zeal: he said, “I need to play Mercutio.” He did the Queen Mab speech, and was extraordinary. Only twice or three times in my life have I cast someone there on the spot, but I did it with him. It struck me that he had an understanding of the piece, and of the soul of Mercutio. There was no question to me that he was a very special young man. … His was the most fully realized Mercutio that I – and all who saw that production – have ever seen.” – Lewis Baumander

    And regarding Keanu in Hamlet: “The depth of his passion, curiosity and desire to find where a character is living is far superior to any other actor I’ve worked with.”

    Lastly, http://poll.pollcode.com/lmIW_result?v

    • Sorry, but I’ve seen more movies, including those by Reeves, than anyone, well, ever. He’s very, very weak. His hollow voice, vague eyes, and stilted delivery are all constants. He’s harmless and lightly likable, but inconsequential. Good directors (Branagh, Coppola, Frears, Van Sant, Bertolucci) keep casting him, always to deleterious effect. He’s best used (River’s Edge, Permanent Record, Bill & Ted, My Own Private Idaho) when his natural blankness is utilized for the effect it can have. Otherwise, he’s an embarrassment. Sorry…but ask anyone (who’s not affiliated with a Keanu fan club).

  4. I know people who have seen close to 50 Keanu movies, and those who have seen every single thing he’s done and are in the process of rooting out those they cannot find (e.g. lost commercials or early TV appearances). I’ve seen only around 35 myself, and his range of film roles impresses me. Few actors have successfully delved into comedy, action, drama, sci-fi, romance, etc with – if not great – then at least average to decent performances.

    And almost by definition, people who enjoy Keanu’s work as an actor usually call themselves Keanu fans, so your last sentence doesn’t really work. But anyway, here are some quotes: http://www.whoaisnotme.net/acting.htm, some of them by critics who stand to gain nothing from praising him.

  5. Yeah, see, there’s a difference in being a “Keanu fan’ and ‘being an obsessed, militant part of an internet Keanu Strike Force that has an internet alert system which targets pockets of anti-Keanu sentiment for your fetishistic revenge.’

  6. Why is it not OK to not like Keanu’s work? Is it an affront to humanity or the gods? Cause aside from “Point Break,” which, let’s face it, is a masterpiece of grit cinema, Keanu has largely been a non-factor as a thespian.

    I do not state this as fact, but merely opinion.

  7. Videoportjones, do you think Keanu Reeves is the *worst* actor you’ve ever seen? I kinda get that impression from your excessively vitriolic description of his acting and physical appearance, as well as your lame attempt at humour with your “sophisticated sociological experiment” comment.

    Have you ever expressed your dislike of other actors with as much hateful passion? If so, maybe you’ll enlighten your readers with your opinion of those actors as well…?

  8. Sure, anytime. And I hardly think my assessment is ‘vitriolic’; if anything, I think it expresses a genial appreciation for the Reevester’s meager charms. I’m not ‘hateful’ towards Keanu Reeves; in fact, if you’ll actually read what I’ve written, I state at one point that ‘I find it hard to hate someone as essentially harmless’ as Keanu, and, in another, ‘he seems like a nice enough fella’. I also firmly believe he is a very, very limited actor whose ascendancy (and staying power) as a major movie star is both bewildering and, due to the fact that actual talented directors (Coppola, Brannagh, Van Sant, Frears, and more) have, for some inexplicable reason, allowed Reeves’ clearly ‘in over his head’ presence to undermine movies as otherwise interesting and/or delightful as ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, ‘My Own Private Idaho’, and ‘Dangerous Liasons’, among others)- infuriating. Sure there are actors I actually would throw the word ‘hate’ at, whose work and/or personality I find repugnant and loathsome, but this article was a (if you’ll actually read the damned thing) complimentary review of a film I quite like in which your Mr. Reeves was actually more than acceptable.
    And as to his ‘physical appearance’- I never made fun of it; what I did was describe how he is far too inexpressive of mien to express necessary emotion in a movie. I understand you are a fan (or, perhaps ‘fanatic’) of Keanu’s, and you go on ahead with your opinions. I’ll do the same with mine. Thanks for reading and, when in Maine, come rent at Videoport, the best movie store in the world- peace, love, and movies!


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