Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Well, La Di Dah

I was eleven when “Annie Hall” came out in 1977. My parents were Woody Allen fans and I remember seeing it all the time, it seemed, on television, which must mean more than once since this was before VCRs or DVDs. My mom, who would watch Allen kissing beautiful women with a hilarious combination of shock and attraction (O my god! Gross! Look!), encouraged me to adopt some of Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall style and I did occasionally wear neckties and caps to middle school. Diane Keaton was the only movie star that ever received any kind of official parental endorsement and it was clear to me that their admiration—and mine—was warranted. She was incredibly cool.

Last week, I wanted to write a brief piece in appreciation of Daphne Merkin’s essay on jolie-laide in the Times’ T magazine. The moment passed, but the Merkin-Keaton combination in this Sunday’s magazine is irresistible. Merkin’s got a lovely cheerful tone—a nice way of coming across as a smart woman who likes to write about trivial things. She’s neither condescending about matters like movie stars and make-up nor is she dazzled by them.

A theme of Merkin’s profile is Keaton’s own sense of minor regret—she should have been more courageous, less afraid of intimacy—and the fact of our (America’s Hollywood’s) utter failure to appreciate her talent. What struck me is how much wealth Keaton’s self-diagnosed timidity has brought to her life: an array of interesting lovers instead of marriage, the financial freedom to pursue hobbies (such as home decorating and renovation) at a high level, a career unlike anyone else’s, chances to edit, direct, and photograph, motherhood on her own schedule (She is 59; she adopted the first of her two children at 50.). She is still incredibly cool—and Merkin is the right writer to show it.

The profile made me deeply and giddily happy again, as Keaton’s Hall always has done, but it also left me stumped: how could anyone bring these two together again? Clearly, Merkin needs to write a screenplay…

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