Keanu Reeves Works Hard in Otherwise Lifeless Generation Um …


Keanu Reeves is perhaps the most misunderstood actor of his generation. Quiet and stoic, his is an expressiveness that most often comes through in looks and gestures—hardly a quality likely to come across in the two Matrix sequels. Mark Mann’s Generation Um …, which follows a man named John (Reeves) and his two escort friends over the course of a single day in New York, would appear to give the erstwhile action star more opportunity to shine. It does that in its own way—Reeves is front and center in a thinly sketched narrative anchored by little other than his presence—but also runs into the same problem as countless other stories about emotionally distant people meandering from one unfulfilling encounter to the next: It ends up being ponderous and unfulfilling itself. (That its very title sounds like something Reeves might mumble in one of his less ambitious projects does little to help.) It’s easy enough to write off his female cohorts as ciphers whose aimlessness isn’t even accidentally interesting, but John is considerably more expressive, even introspective, in his world-weariness; the film’s best scene finds him filming the squirrels and water fountains of a local park, with Mann switching seamlessly between John’s footage and that of the film proper. Reeves is able to make such potentially silly material as this strangely compelling, but his hard work is ultimately a drop in an otherwise empty bucket.