When I heard it was Diane Keaton’s birthday last week, I started thinking about the fact that she is not only the star of many of my most-loved movies, but also of some of the most celebrated movies of all time. Movies like The Godfather, Manhattan, and of course, Annie Hall. But what about her other, oft-forgotten movies in which she shines just as brightly? The movies that may not make it onto fancy-shmancy lists of The Greatest Movies of All Time, but would certainly make it onto my list of The Greatest Movies To Watch Slumber-Party-Style From A Bed Fort Made Out of Cotton Candy and Stuffed Unicorns. Here are my top three:
I’ve already expounded on my reasons for worshiping this movie (it’s certainly in my top three favorite movies of all time) so I won’t go overboard. But a quick refresher for those of you miserably unaware of this ’80s gem: Diane plays JC Wyatt, a powerhouse ad exec with no time for romance or silliness. Of course, when she inherits a beautiful baby girl, everything changes. Wow, can we take a moment to congratulate me on the restraint needed to keep that description down to two sentences? I could write a book on the awesomeness that is Diane Keaton in this movie. She never allows JC to become a cliche, hinting at her vulnerability (watch her guiltily spend thousands of dollars on presents for the baby when she still plans on giving her up for adoption) while also conveying a take-no-prisoners, I-am-woman-hear-me-kick-ass-in-this-business-meeting attitude throughout. Diane is the heart of this movie, and I have to believe that the unbreakable inner strength we see in JC is really Diane’s shining through.
Manhattan Murder Mystery
When it comes to Woody Allen movies starring Diane Keaton, most people think of Annie Hall or Manhattan. And those movies are wonderful. But my absolute favorite has always been and will always be Manhattan Murder Mystery. One of Woody’s funniest and most lighthearted, the movie centers around Diane and her husband (played, of course, by Woody), an Upper West Side couple who begins to believe their next door neighbor murdered his wife. Cue hilarity! Over the course of the film, Diane becomes more embroiled in the mystery, fancying herself an amateur sleuth, while Woody’s resistance to the investigation begins to affect their marriage. There are twists and turns and just the right balance of humor and suspense. Also, Alan Alda costars in the best role of his career. I blame this movie entirely for my Alan-Alda-be-my-daddy-no-my-lover fixation. He’s the definition of a silver fox, calling Diane late at night to scheme from his bachelor-pad-cabin-in-the-woods that somehow is also supposed to be a New York City apartment. But of course, Diane is our star, in her familiar menswear-meets-everywoman attire, plucky and brave (you will bite your fingernails to bits when she sneaks into her neighbor’s apartment), topped off with a single perfect drop of ditziness. Even if you hate Woody Allen, you will love this movie.
Something’s Gotta Give
To be fair, this movie was a huge hit, so I can’t really call it “Less-Appreciated.” But, like any Nancy Meyers movie, it has its detractors, and I wouldn’t be the loudmouth rom-com lover that I am if I weren’t here to convince them that they’re wrong. Diane stars as a divorced, middle-aged playwright (arguably supposed to be the greatest playwright of all time, because in typical Nancy Meyers fashion her Hamptons mansion is TO DIE FOR and her Manhattan apartment ain’t half bad either, but I digress) whose daughter’s much, much, much older lothario boyfriend, played by Jack Nicholson, has a heart attack under her roof. In true Hollywood form, Diane becomes his caretaker while he recuperates. Can you guess what happens next? Look, the cast is superb, the set design is lusciously beachy with a gorgeous sand-and-seaglass color palette, and the writing is sharp. Even the writing-within-the-writing is sharp. And nobody – NOBODY – other than Diane could make hysterical sobs come off as funny. Did I mention she has a (semi) nude scene? And that her body is sick (in the good way)? Also, this movie contains a scene that gives me chills whenever I even come close to thinking about it: when Diane and her too-cool-for-love daughter (Amanda Peet) are sitting on the beach and Diane implores her to let people in, telling her, “I let someone in and I had the time of my life.” Amanda responds, “I’ve never had the time of my life.” And Diane says, “I know you haven’t, sweetie, and I am telling you this from the bottom of my heart… What are you waiting for?” It’s not the words so much as the way she says it. If you haven’t seen this movie, I’m asking you, from the bottom of my heart, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Also, Keanu Reeves is in it, and he’s hot.
I don’t mean to imply that there aren’t dozens of others I could have listed. I gleefully attended a The Family Stone-themed holiday party a few weeks back at which the DVD player suddenly conked. Rather than not watch the flick (featuring Diane as a tough-as-nails-or-is-she? family matriarch facing off with the uptight-as-her-tight-little-updo Sarah Jessica Parker), the host went out and bought a new DVD player. Which would only play the movie in black-and-white. So we watched it, without color. It added a certain gravitas that did not go unappreciated. My friend Lewis would kill me if I didn’t mention Mad Money (Diane as kicky-but-ruthless-bank-robber), his pick for the best film of 2008. And I’d have to be a murderer not to love the Father of the Bride franchise. In short, Diane Keaton can do no wrong. She elevates every script, her fashion is fearless, and she inspires and influences us as women daily in ways of which we’re probably not even fully aware. Happy belated birthday, Diane!