The Spirituality of Keanu Reeves
Lessons learned from a filmography.
Dear readers, please excuse this missive if it seems to ramble or become nonsensical in places. I am writing now by the light of a lone candle, a few minutes past midnight. My eyes are heavy. My hand is cramped from writing. My mind is troubled. I have been watching Keanu Reeves movies all day.It started innocently enough: Yesterday morning I read the welcome and surprising news that Reeves and co-star Alex Winter had confirmed that Bill & Ted Face the Music, the third movie in the Bill & Ted series, was in pre-production. It’s been twenty-seven years. That’s a long time in Hollywood and Reeves has made a lot of movies since Bogus Journey, the second movie in the series, in 1991. Maybe I’ll watch a few Reeves movies, I thought. Maybe I’ll rediscover my love for an actor who has reinvented himself several times over the course of his career. Maybe I’ll find a little movie magic. But what I discovered, gentle readers, was so much more. In fact, I may have decrypted a religion based solely on Keanu Reeves. The spirituality of Keanu, if you will: Keanu-ism. Here are its tenets:
A group of disaffected Gen-X high school students discovers that one of their close friends has been murdered, and one of their other close friends is responsible. Reeves plays the only one amongst them troubled enough by the incident to do something about it. The moral is clear:
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Bill and Ted are in danger of flunking their high school history class unless they pull out all the stops and get an A+ on the final. With a little cosmic intervention from the future, they manage to do just that. Keanu, I have watched your movie and I have heeded your wisdom:
You might think Reeves is trying to teach his students…I mean, viewers…about some early ‘90s version of YOLO. But really, this adrenaline-fueled thriller is all about counter-culture. Those same white, cis-gendered, macho FBI agents that hassle Keanu are the same people who, ten years later, became investment bankers and Wall Street charlatans. I hear you Keanu. What’s the takeaway?
Sometimes, in order to effectively teach a lesson, a master must embody the very thing they speak out against. Here Reeves, opposite River Phoenix, plays the son of the wealthy mayor of Portland. Until his inheritance comes through, Reeves spends his time among the street denizens of the city, who sell their bodies to get by. Amongst them, he is accepted, but he is not really one of them. He has an out, an escape plan that he has always intended to take. And when he does, he burns his bridges on the way.
Keanu literally plays Siddhartha, an enlightened being who was reborn and incarnated many times. Lotus blossoms spring from where he walks, and he glows with wisdom. While Buddhism might not exactly be the same thing as Keanu-ism, they certainly share certain aspects—like Keanu Reeves, for one.
It seems that whenever Keanu teams up with Dennis Hopper, people die (see River’s Edge). There’s a lot of wisdom that can be taken from this movie: Live life in the fast lane. Beware of city busses—they’re unreliable at best, and overly contrived plot points at worst. If you have the chance to co-star with Sandra Bullock, take it, because she’s great. But I see through all that, to the true lesson:
Based on a William Gibson short story, Johnny Mnemonic fits in with a slew of early ‘90s movies that could be described as alternatingly technophobic and celebrations of technology. In ‘95 (the same year Sandra Bullock blew our minds by ordering pizza on the internet), no one knew just yet what the Internet was capable of. Except for Keanu. He knew. He always knew.
From virtual office worker to the literal savior in the future techno-pocalypse, Neo defined the personal philosophy of millions of millennials, this writer included. Plug-in, learn kung fu, unplug.
Like, I totally don’t have to do this week’s expense reports because this is all just a simulation anyway, man.
The Lake House
It was while watching the criminally underrated The Lake House that I recalled the tenets gleaned from watching Speed. This movie proves that Keanu talks the talk and walks the walk. He’s the hero of his own story and, thus, the hero of all of ours too. After Speed, Keanu reflected, and meditated, and decided:
I mean, the lesson is pretty clear here, right? Don’t F*&$ with Keanu. Don’t touch his car, don’t hurt his dog, just leave him alone. If you leave him alone, he will remain centered and Buddha-like. But if you F with him, he won’t stop. He just won’t. I mean seriously, at some point, enough is enough, Keanu. Right?
Lesson learned: Keanu Reeves is awesome. And don’t mess with him.