“A few years ago, something miraculous happened to Diane Keaton: her feelings were introduced to her mind. Actors spend whole careers without bridging that void, and Keaton had actually made a style of the discontinuity. In the '70s she embodied a new, neurasthenic American heroine (widely imitated since)--a charming ditherer who snorted at her own inarticulateness, slapped her head in frustration, and smiled adorably as the ether seeped back into her brain. As Annie Hall and "the winner of the Zelda Fitzgerald Emotional Maturity Award" in Manhattan, she turned the exploring-your-own-feelings school of Method acting into a delicious standup routine: her brain would send out a search party into the wilds of her emotions, and she'd watch as a single survivor came crawling back--torn, bloodied, an arrow in her back, babbling incoherently and then giving up the ghost.
“I'm not sure this style was always intentional. At times it seemed as if Keaton was lost in her own head, and her acting in serious roles was hit-or-miss. But that added to her vulnerability; she had a tremulous honesty that made us pull for her as an actress. And she kept plugging. In her nice-try performance in Looking for Mr. Goodbar, she was able to express her longings physically, even if the words still sounded piped in. It wasn't until Shoot the Moon, early in 1982, that Diane Keaton quietly and firmly laid all doubts to rest. As Albert Finney's battle-scarred wife, she was alert, sardonic, ambibalent, melancholy; she proved she could think on screen. And because she'd become so technically adept, she could express those thoughts in the simplest gestures and inflections.
“In George Roy Hill's tense and provocative new thriller, The Little Drummer Girl, Diane Keaton gives the performance of her life[Edelstein would later write that her best performance was probably Shoot the Moon]….
“Implicit in the story is that the actress's politics have no depth--she selects them like a costume, because they show off her figure…. [B]ut the film isn't about the comeuppance of a Vanessa Redgrave; it's about an actress who enters the tumultous "theater of the real" and learns how unreal her life and ideas until that moment have been.
“As the American leading lady in an English repertory company, even a bad one, Keaton is miscast. But this proves irrelevant, since The Little Drummer Girl doesn't turn the world into a stage, where an actress can be brilliant and still keep the windows to her sould tightly shuttered. It turns the world into a film, where the people Charlie tries to fool peer into her face as skeptically, as pitilessly, as a movie camera.
“In struggling to be "real," Keaton gives what is virtually an essay on her own acting--using her well-worn shtick selectively and commenting on it. Early in the film, when she's interrogated by the Israelis, she launches into a monologue about a childhood trauma, and she looks like the old Diane Keaton: her chin quivers, her eyes tear up, as she "relives" the scene; watching her, I thought, "Oh, Diane, shit, really, this is your Oscar turn and it's so bogus." And then Klaus Kinski points out that everything she's uttered is a lie, that she did that monologue just recently for a journalist, and, in a startling coup de theatre, Keaton turns on her tormentors with coruscating rage. [she does?] Someone saw through her Method acting--and she did it so well! She did it so well she almost believed it herself! Pigs!
“It's daring of Keaton to be bad in so familiar a way, without letting us in beforehand on the joke. But that humility is the secret of her growth in the last decade, and it accounts for our extraordinary empathy with her. (Among contemporary actresses, only the more aggressive Debra Winger stirs these kinds of feelings in an audience.) When Charlie is grilled by the Palestinians and then trained to fight in one of their camps, we root for her the way we root for Diane Keaton in an ambitious role: don't overdo it, now, Charlie, don't push too much, think before you speak, live the part. And in a stunning paradox, her tragedy is that she does, at times, succeed in living the part--even as she's setting people up to be killed.
“Keaton's most fascinating moments are when Charlie stands back from her performance, horrified at the intensity of her feelings for the Palestinians and yet determined not to fuck up this great, real song and dance. The movie doesn't make her initial decision to join the Israelis convincing…. But once she takes the plunge, her struggle to keep on trouping is palpable: she's not going back to blocking traffic in Trafalgar Square, even if people she's come to love must be killed. This gives the film a genuinely tragic dimension: it's not only the Israeli and Palestinian brutalities that tear her apart; it's her own collusion in them. For the first time she comprehends the link between her politics and her selfish inner needs, and in the grisly, cathartic climax, the consequences of her great performance are splattered over her face. The Middle East's Oscar, as it were.
“This is an epic piece of acting, but Keaton could not have risen to such heights without Le Carré's terrific scenario or Loring Mandel's lucid adaptation….. The final triumph of Keaton's performance here and in Shoot the Moon is that maturity becomes her: in jettisoning the mannerisms of a lifetime and simply being "herself," she's more alive than almost anyone in movies. Diane Keaton isn't merely a great actress; she's an exemplary one.”
Village Voice, date ?
[This is the first of a series of Edelstein raves for Keaton that sometimes seem excessive, and with a strange undertone of ambivalence. The tone eventually became bullying, as in this from his review of Baby Boom: "She's a great comedienne and a great actress. Liv Ullmann, eat your heart out."]