Diane Keaton is as much an archetype as an iconic actress: the onscreen embodiment of a modern, independent woman who speaks her mind and is, yes, a little nutty. Rising on a wave of idiosyncratic roles in the seventies, Keaton plays some of the most complex and funny female characters of the day, and, with a spate of recent comedies poking fun at middle age, she’s proven herself to be a talent who isn’t going to fade away. Veering — like her career — from the funny to the dramatic, these are Keaton’s best roles.
1. The Godfather (1972)
While Keaton seems sidelined by all the manly killing and kissing on the cheek, her Kay Adams remains the moral core of the Mafia epic many consider to be the greatest movie of all time. Betrothed to Michael (Al Pacino), she is pivotal as the outsider who only gradually realizes what sort of family she’s marrying into. Woven into the drama of the Corleones’ quest for underworld dominance are many tiny dramas, including the blooming and failing love of Kay and Michael and her quest to find acceptance in his family.
2. Annie Hall (1977)
Keaton, long a guiding muse for Woody Allen, has some of her finest moments in Annie Hall, playing Allen’s whimsical love interest in a rare truly great romantic comedy. The Oscar-winning film embodied the spirit of seventies New York, set the bar high for romantic comedy, and sparked fashion trends, with Keaton’s vest-and-slacks ensemble becoming a fad among the smart set. Her character — neuroses, New Age beliefs, spliff smoking, and all — was a likable enigma, impossible to pin down and impossible not to fall in love with.
3. Reds (1981)
The ambitious, politically impassioned Oscar-winning three-and-a-half-hour drama takes on the Bolshevik Revolution, but it would crumble under its own considerably dramatic weight if not for the performances of Keaton and Warren Beatty. Reds is an anomaly through and through: the rare big-budget epic built on ideas rather than explosions and the rare movie with a romance so authentic that audiences actually feel the love between Keaton and Beatty. The couple’s reunion at the train station will bring tears to the eyes of the most hardened cynic of any political persuasion.
4. Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
Built around the premise that Keaton is facing a quandary many a mother has had to deal with — her daughter is dating Jack Nicholson — Something’s Gotta Give is a by-the-books romantic comedy elevated to something special by the chemistry between Keaton and Nicholson. The pair share a camaraderie that is too rare in movies. And speaking of rarities, in what other movie does Keaton have a hilarious nude scene and make out with Keanu Reeves?
5. The First Wives Club (1996)
Women of a certain age love this wacky revenge fantasy about divorced ladies getting back at their no-good ex-husbands, and so should you. The ladies in question — Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Keaton — show that their gusto and comedic timing are as sharp as ever. Thick as thieves, catty as hell, and invigorated by man hating, the trio is a precursor to the Sex and the City quartet, yet so much better, more fun, and — dare I say — more realistic.
1. Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977): Keaton plays a young schoolteacher who leads a double life as a bed-hopping barfly. Although the end is tragic, the flick is in essence the sad tale of a young woman trying to find herself.
2. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993): Keaton reunites with Woody Allen for this talky comedy about paranoid Upper West Siders, and it doesn’t seem like a moment has passed since the days of Annie Hall.
3. Marvin’s Room (1996): Old age, insanity, strokes, bone-marrow transplants — are these turnoffs? Not when they’re anchored by sterling performances from Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, and Keaton.
4. Baby Boom (1987): What if Annie Hall inherited a baby? That’s the premise of this comedy, in which a career woman has motherhood and dirty diapers foisted upon her. Does she realize what she’s been missing out on? What do you think?
5. Sleeper (1973): Keaton is Allen’s hilarious partner in crime in this screwball sci-fi comedy set in a future where smoking and eating ice cream are good for you.
Check out AMC Premiere Event: Something’s Gotta Give on Sat., Nov. 27, at 8PM | 7C and 11PM | 10C.