Then Again review - Diane Keaton
Since she designed her own trendsetting wardrobe for Woody Allen’s quintessential neurotic-romantic 1977 comedy, Annie Hall, Diane Keaton’s style has been as integral to her star appeal as her talent. Maybe even more so. There’s rarely been a celebrity more consistent in her self-presentation over the decades: Keaton’s fashion-forward headgear and gloves and formfitting yet body-covering layers are cloth representations of her uniquely skittery, feminine speech patterns, of the private yet unorthodox personal life she has chosen (eschewing wifehood and baby making, then adopting a daughter and son in her 50s), and even of the flitting nature of her artistic interests in photography, filmmaking, and house restoration. Then Again is another element of that collage, an autobiographical project as idiosyncratic as its subject. I don’t know whether this book of roughly chronological bits and pieces — structured as a joint memoir by Keaton and her late, journal-keeping mother, Dorothy Keaton Hall — is quite what the publishing world envisioned when the sale of the author’s as-yet-unwritten project spurred a big-bucks bidding war three years ago. It’s sweet of Dorothy’s daughter to honor her mother, even if Mom’s diary entries hold little resonance for those who are not her children. But, well, la-di-da. La-di-da. This book feels like Diane Keaton. Which means it’s lovable.
And yes, she talks, in fits and starts, about her love affairs with Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, and Al Pacino.
”In a way, I became famous for being an inarticulate woman,” Keaton writes, explaining herself perfectly. Growing up in sunshiny 1950s Los Angeles with a younger brother and two younger sisters, little Diane Hall — called ”Di-annie” by her businessman dad — knew she wanted her own spotlight ever since she watched her mother get crowned Mrs. Los Angeles by Art Linkletter in 1955. Mom lost the next title, Mrs. California. But young, funny Diane seized on a dream of stardom. And along the way she decided that ”loving a man, and becoming a wife, would have to be put aside.” Still, she wandered into headline-making relationships with costars Woody, Warren, and Al, love stories that form a big part of her narrative and clearly animate her years later. ”Could I have made a lasting commitment to them? Hard to say. Subconsciously I must have known it could never work, and because of this they’d never get in the way of my achieving my dreams.”
True? Or a personal creation myth developed through years of psychoanalytic exploration? Who knows — and what does it matter? Then Again is most here and now in little seemingly spontaneous asides that appear to twinkle from under one of Keaton’s cute bowler hats. On her own looks: ”…It drove me nuts when Warren Beatty referred to [third-born] Robin as the ‘pretty, sexy sister.’?” On Al Pacino: ”Sometimes I swear Al must have been raised by wolves. There were normal things he had no acquaintance with, like the whole idea of enjoying a meal in the company of others.” From Keaton’s actual Grammy Hall, in dialogue that could have appeared on screen: ”That Woody Allen is too funny-looking to pull some of that crap he pulls off, but you can’t hurt a Jew, can you?” Keaton mentions her years of bulimia in the late 1960s. She talks sideways about the path that brought her to adoptive motherhood. And she describes the way her life works today. ”Stardom never became a nightmare, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be,” the actress declares. Then Again is what Diane Keaton fans might think it would be. That’s nice: Seems like old times. B+