July 15, 2013

30 Days of Female Characters, Day 30: Favorite actress

Diane Keaton

Today was “anything you like!” and so, since a couple days ago I picked my favorite female author - favorite woman who creates awesome fictional women - I decided today to pick my favorite actress - favorite woman who portrays awesome fictional women. And that woman, for me, is Diane Keaton. It could be just that she acts in a lot of movies that I enjoy: ’70s-era Woody Allen films, The Godfather movies, Reds which is a movie I don’t think anyone else I’ve met loves on quite the level I do… but I also just think that it’s amazing how she’s played such a wide variety of interesting, nuanced women so well while still sort of bringing her own individual character to them.

I think that last one is where some people I’ve met think she “plays the same person in every movie” but I don’t see how you can say that if you’ve seen her in even just a few films. Her two probably best-known roles - Kay Adams-Corleone from The Godfather movies, and Annie Hall from the film of the same title - are wildly different, to the extent that I think a “best movies ever” book I was reading once called Kay “the anti-Annie Hall.” The most you can say those two have in common is that they both leave their dudes at the end (well, at the end of The Godfather: Part II), but it’s in a very different context. Annie’s arc is of her coming into herself, while Kay’s is of her being slowly broken down. When Annie leaves it’s, while perhaps bittersweet for viewers who might have wanted her and Alvy to end up together, entirely a positive moment for her personally - a new beginning, her stepping into the life she wants. When Kay finally leaves Michael in The Godfather: Part II, it’s a moment of triumph for her, but a very pyrrhic one. She’s had to betray her ideals just to avoid a worse fate, and she is more escaping an awful life she didn’t sign up for than building the life she wants. (After all, even her kids stay with Michael.)

And Louise Bryant from Reds - the other Diane Keaton role I have in a gif here - is even more different from those two. She’s an independent, career-minded woman who repeatedly tries to assert herself and build her own existence, while still falling in love, in the sexist world and expectations of 1910s America - where, even the progressives don’t always take her seriously. She’s a woman in control of her own destiny - or at least, trying to be - from the beginning of the film. (And an actual historical woman who loved other women! Seriously, go check out more about her if you haven’t heard of Louise Bryant.)

And Keaton plays all these very different women excellently, and in a way where you just can’t imagine anybody else as these characters. And they’re just a small slice of her many roles.

I don’t know, man, there are a lot of actresses I admire but she’s just the one I keep coming back to - and maybe it’s that the roles she chooses appeal to me so much, but I think Keaton is a very talented and often underrated actress.

And that concludes this 30-day meme! Which one should I do next, followers?

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