For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves Is a Second Look at the First Keanussance Man

An illustration of Keanu Reeves looking thoughtfully at the viewer

For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves

Kitty Curran (author), Larissa Zageris (author)
Quirk Publishing
October 15, 2019

So, let’s talk about Keanu Reeves. His star has shone since his acting breakout in the late ‘80s, but it’s hit a meteoric rise since his appearance at E3 in June 2019 and subsequent memefication. It’s safe to say that we’re in the middle of what Larissa Zageris and Kitty Curran call a “Keanussance.” In their latest book, For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves, the authors delve into what is so special about Keanu: who he is, what he’s done, and why we love him so much.

An illustration of Keanu Reeves looking thoughtfully at the viewer
My personal introduction to Keanu Reeves came from watching The Matrix when I was too young to understand it, much less appreciate it. Freaked out by the scene where Neo’s mouth disappears and a cybertronic bug is forced down his belly button, I steered clear of The Matrix and the rest of Keanu’s oeuvre until I caught a serendipitous rerun of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I was hooked by the movie’s silly-yet-sincere spirit from the moment its protagonists declared their names to be Ted “Theodore” Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esq. To this day it remains one of my favorite comfort films.

Later I learned that Keanu Reeves had almost been typecast as his surfer-dude “Ted” character, until he surprised everyone by starring in a bonafide action flick. Curious enough to revisit The Matrix, I found that I loved it after all, not least because of its star. The two polar opposites Keanu plays in these films—sweet, dumb Ted and hacker-turned-martial-arts-messiah Neo—exemplify both his acting range and the reason he’s so hard to ignore. He has the ability to go from dopey, yet oddly deep, to hardcore badass, without losing that layer of beautiful vulnerability underneath.

Right away, For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves acknowledges the actor’s star power and his most memorable roles. After a brief history that starts with his birth (as a double Virgo) to his current-day projects (John Wick 3, Always Be My Maybe, Toy Story 4), the book lays out a series of thoughtful essays and short skits exploring Keanu from various perspectives. The tone ranges from meditative to frivolous, but it’s all built on a foundation of sincere admiration. The effort Curran and Zageris put into really considering Keanu Reeves pays off. This is a deep dive, taking a second and third look at a celebrity whose significance has often been underestimated.

The first essay, “Keanussance Man,” investigates our current Keanu “moment” and why the man himself is so frequently overlooked. Taking care to follow his career from past to present, it covers Keanu’s major roles and how they shaped his body of work as a whole, focusing on films as varied as Point Break, My Own Private Idaho, and Much Ado About Nothing. Then the essay remarks on how Keanu’s acting work changed—or didn’t change—the critical world’s perception of him. Unsurprisingly for a book written by two obvious fans, For Your Consideration refutes the critical backlash against Keanu. It suggests that critics were baffled by his wide array of roles and lack of adherence to standard Hollywood masculinity—and decided to rag on him instead of dignifying his acting choices with serious regard.

There’s plenty of praise for his roles, both standout and niche—but For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves doesn’t stop at his work. It’s sadly rare to see a non-shitty celeb in today’s climate. As the book points out, off-the-set Keanu Reeves is noteworthy for just how decent he is. He likes his privacy, rather than embarrassing himself in the spotlight. He speaks highly of his coworkers and stunt crew. He’s worked in a ton of films helmed by female directors—thirteen in his thirty-plus year career. And he’s careful to stay hands-off when taking photos with female fans.

In short, Keanu Reeves is just great. And that’s what Curran and Zageris strive to explain: he may have been meme’d to hell and back, but he’s also a genuinely talented actor with a lot to recommend him behind the scenes as well. Sincerity and appreciation radiate from every page. Not once does the book miss a chance to go deep where others might stick to the basics. It would have been easy to write a collection of essays about liking Keanu “ironically,” capitalizing on his fandom popularity with shallow pseudo-reverence. But For Your Consideration goes the distance and assesses Keanu not just as an actor but a human being.

On top of that, the authors manage to keep a sense of humor about how well-suited Keanu Reeves is to the meme treatment, peppering in short segments of trivia and Keanu-centric fanfiction among the longer essays. For the most part these bits got no more than a brief chuckle from me. But I did love “Here’s Johnny,” a Buzzfeed-esque quiz for determining which Keanu-played John/Jon/Johnny fits your personality best. To my delight, I got Jonathan Harker (from Bram Stoker’s Dracula), which I happen to think is one of Keanu’s most maligned and least appreciated roles. (Listen, aside from the bad accent, Keanu is the perfect Harker: naïve, slightly dopey, completely outmatched by supernatural baddies, yet cute enough that you can see why Winona’s Mina is crazy about him. I will defend this casting decision till the day I die.)

A black-and-white still of Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker, looking pensive
“No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and dear to his heart and eye the morning can be.” Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker in Bram Stocker’s Dracula (1992)

Silliness aside, there were some parts of For Your Consideration that fell flat. The content is stellar without exception, but I found a few of the essays to be organized in a confusing way. They tend to be broken up into shorter sections—usually with punny or referential headings. This helps delineate topics within the essay, but also interrupts the flow, sometimes abruptly. It seems like the authors had a lot they wanted to include, but didn’t always know where to fit in a new thought.

Overall, though, each essay stands on its own as a complete composition, outlining an argument and providing plenty of evidence to support it. One particularly excellent example is Part II: “Keanu and Race: or Why Keanu Reeves is the Goth Audrey Hepburn.” This well-researched dive into Keanu’s rise to fame against the larger context of Asian representation in Hollywood hooked me with astute observations about mixed-race actors passing as white, androgynous ideals of male beauty, and the recent trend towards parts that break from Asian male stereotypes. It’s comprehensive, insightful, and had me thinking about it long after I finished the piece.

I don’t have enough space to rave about how well this book hits on what makes Keanu so wonderful. I keep finding myself wanting to quote large portions, but really the best way to get an idea of his good qualities is to read the whole thing. I know I’ll be using the book’s best talking points whenever I get the chance to expound on Keanu Reeves’s virtues. For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves in itself embodies the two polar extremes of what drew me to Keanu in the first place: just the right amount of goofy jokes, paired with surprisingly deep moments that leave you going “woah.”