The Diane Keaton Fan Club

 Annie Hall (1977)

Like ordering butter chicken at an Indian restaurant, Annie Hall offers a gateway into the world of Diane Keaton. She plays the titular character: a photographer and struggling nightclub singer who dates Woody Allen’s Alvy Singer, a New York comedian. (Despite Allen’s involvement it would be a crime to overlook her iconic performance in this film.) We follow the pair’s tumultuous relationship, supposedly loosely based on their real-life romance. Here, Diane steps deep into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory, with Annie responsible for bringing joy to her deeply cynical boyfriend, who rarely stops to take a breath between complaints. Thankfully, she escapes his overbearing clutch finding freedom in Los Angeles with a free-spirited music producer. The role also scored Diane an Oscar in 1978, and a place on fashion inspiration lists till the end of time.

Father of the Bride (1991)

 To be honest, this film should be called ‘Mother of the Bride’, based solely on Diane Keaton’s performance as the level-headed Nina Banks. In the lead-up to a wedding, generally logical and polite people can transform into an unrecognisable version of themselves – someone who’ll fork over an outrageous fee to learn the foxtrot, even though they had no urge before and will never dance it again. Tensions are high, and it’s the mum who often steps in to provide a much-needed sense of calm. In Father of the Bride, Nina finds herself caught between her newly engaged daughter Annie and hesitant husband (Steve Martin). She is stoic and charismatic, with an uncanny ability to remain composed amid chaos – even when George offers to host the wedding at their home and she finds swans in her bathtub. Impressive.

The Godfather Trilogy (1972 – 1990)

 Diane Keaton shifts gears from comedy to drama with more ease than an experienced Daytona race car driver. In The Godfather trilogy, we see some of her most dramatic work as Kay Adams-Corleone, the wife of Mafioso Don Michael Corleone. The pair meet while studying at Dartmouth College – Kay is educated, independent and represents an honest life Michael yearns for. When they marry however, Kay unwillingly becomes embroiled in her husband’s criminal activities. Despite her fear of Michael, Kay is the only person in the trilogy that stands up to him, and lives to tell the tale. She’s mistreated, abused and has her children whipped away yet remains a fiercely supportive mother and empowered woman who fights for beliefs in dangerous, unpredictable circumstances. She gives strength to women who have faced adversity and has the courage to make her own choices. Diane Keaton shines in this role as an unlikely mafia matriarch.  

Manhattan (1979)

 Imagine if you could see what happens to a character once a movie ends. Was stress driving to the airport in peak hour traffic, double parking in the drop-off zone with the ignition left on, then hurdling over the customs security barricade to enter your lover’s arms before they board their plane worth it? Most of the time we don’t find out, because an upbeat Natalie Cole song is cued and the film credits start rolling. But in Manhattan, we come close to seeing what may have become of Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty objectionable tale from Woody Allen, but you can’t ignore Diane’s performance as the self-assured, educated and astute journalist Mary Wilkie. Where Annie was flighty and innocent, Mary is confident and direct. Jaded by her divorce, she adopts a no-holds-barred attitude, and is finally a woman who puts herself before the men in her life.

 Something’s Gotta Give (2003)

 Always befriend people who have beach houses, especially if said beach house is located in the Hamptons. In Something’s Gotta Give, Erica Barry (Diane Keaton) is the epitome of the Hamptons chic in a non-threatening-I-aspire-to-be-you-when-I-hit-middle-age kind of way. She’s a divorced, successful playwright who purchased her own Hamptons weekender by the sea, where she buys organic produce and preserved goods with three syllable names. It’s all very serene and enviable, until her late twenties daughter Marin unexpectedly visits with her sixty-something boyfriend Harry (Jack Nicholson). He suffers a heart attack in the middle of some hanky-panky and, awkwardly, Erica must come to the rescue, allowing him to bunk in until his ticker’s back on track. This is a classic tale of opposites attracting, and word has it Diane’s acting was so convincing on set that Jack Nicholson began to believe she was actually in love with him. Sucker.  

Marvin’s Room  (1996)

 Humans cry three types of tears: ‘basal’ and ‘reflex’ tears, which lubricate and clean the eye, and ‘psychic’ tears when we are emotional. In this film, Diane Keaton triggers a downpour of the psychic kind. Watching her play Bessie Wakefield evokes deep feelings about family wounds and our impending mortality. Having spent much of her adult life looking after her invalid father Marvin and her elderly aunt – while her sister Lee (Meryl Streep) shirks responsibility across the country – Bessie is diagnosed with leukaemia and told she needs a bone marrow transplant to survive. She reaches out to her estranged sister for the first time in 20 years, hoping Lee or one of her sons might be a donor. Even as her health deteriorates, Bessie continues to look after her family with humility, empathy and humour, while offering Lee and her trouble son Hank (Leonardo Di Caprio) respite and hope for their future. See, the psychic tears are coming already.

The First Wive’s Club (1996)

 In the Diane Keaton universe – a place where white linen reigns supreme and magically never creases – there are a lot of Annies. In The First Wive’s Club, Annie MacDuggan Paradis is a former advertising executive who put her career on hold to be a doting housewife. But her self-esteem is shattered when discovers her husband is having an affair with their couple’s therapist. Broken-hearted, she and two old college friends, Brenda (Bette Midler) and Elise (Goldie Hawn) – who have also been burnt by dodgy ex-husbands – vow to get back at them. They start the First Wives Club; begin to reclaim their lives; and reignite their former identities. Through this Annie, we learn that we’ve got to find happiness in ourselves before we go searching for it in others.

Reds (1981)

 What is 195 minutes in hours? Pause, ponder, then gasp: It’s 3 hours and 15 minutes. That is the length of Warren Beatty’s epic historical drama Reds, but don’t stress, because with Diane Keaton on screen for much of the film, this is I-have-nowhere-to-be viewing at its finest. In the largely non-fictional flick, Diane plays Louise Bryant – a socialite who leaves behind her life of excess to become a radical, political journalist covering the Bolshevik rise in the Russian Revolution. Her character undergoes huge personal transformation after meeting writer John Reed (Warren Beatty) and being inspired by his idealism to change the world. Louise discovers she must write, and through her writing becomes a feminist, travelling to Russia to support and report the revolution on the ground. She juggles her impassioned love life, and finds solace in both John Reed and playwright Eugene O’Neill (Jack Nicholson). Bonus points go to Diane for her brazen sass in this role, plus her excellent collection of hats.  

This article was originally published in frankie magazine Issue 88.


Lisa Marie Corso