If poor Jennifer Aniston had a male equivalent it would probably be poor Keanu Reeves. Reportedly single for close to two decades, and fiercely mindful of his privacy, Reeves became instantly memeworthy when he was papped eating a sandwich disconsolately by himself.
Yet there was nothing funny about his reported reasons for singledom: he and his partner, Jennifer Syme, were awaiting the arrival of a daughter, Ava, when the baby was stillborn, on Christmas Eve in 1999. Two years later Syme died in a car crash, at the age of 28. It led to Reeves' living a rootless existence, at one point holing up at Chateau Marmont, the Hollywood hotel, for some years.
Reeves’s fans have assumed a sort of protective affection for the 55-year-old movie star, hoping he’d find his own happy ending after years of personal anguish.
This week he appears to have done just that. For some strange reason, his new relationship isn't what a few people thought it would look like. On Saturday he was photographed publicly with Alexandra Grant, a 46-year-old artist and philanthropist. Stunning, tall and queenly, Grant has already collaborated professionally with Reeves, providing artwork for his volumes of poetry, Ode to Happiness, from 2011, and Shadows, from 2016. The two also founded a publishing house together in 2017. A great meeting of minds, and no mistake.
The reaction has been largely positive. Many have applauded Reeves’s exquisite/cool/age-appropriate-ish taste in his partner. Yet look hard enough online – not that hard, mind – and you’ll find the sour tang of dissent. Or, more specifically, of bodyshaming. Grant’s naturally grey hair has seemingly come in for criticism.
"Saw the photos and legit thought Keanu was dating Helen Mirren, " the comedian Travon Free tweeted. One messageboard user commented: "Men age like wine, women age like milk"; another opinion read: "What is this? He should be bagging hot, young, feminine women, not some old, tattooed feminist." And another: "Keanu deserves a kind girl in their 20s or 30s at the latest, not a great-grandma."
The kerfuffle about Reeves's choice of partner is a bit depressing. It says a lot about celebrity culture and how we view women. Some people seem genuinely surprised that the actor hasn't landed a trophy Tinker Bell – despite the fact that Grant is nearly a decade younger than Reeves. The comedian Sara Schaefer called it Keanu Reeves Isn't Dating A 22 Year Old Bikini Model Day. I'm not sure why we're making a hero out of a man for seeing a beautiful woman nine years his junior.
Reeves’s choice to couple up with a 46-year-old, seemingly when he could have his pick of any woman in the world under 50, seems nearly radical. Yet it’s what we are used to, sadly: leading men are routinely up to 15 years older than their female costars and on-screen lovers.
But Keanu’s has always been an atypical celeb. He has given millions of dollars to charity (and to crew members), and in one video that sent his fans to the fainting couch he was filmed giving his subway seat up to a woman. Yes, the bar is seemingly set that low for Hollywood men: basic civility makes you a white knight. Thanks, Harvey Weinstein.
The sad truth is that any celebrity couple who don't fit the mould and bow to our ideals of beauty are so eye-poppingly different that some people experience a does-not-compute moment. Pierce Brosnan has happily been with his journalist wife, Keely Shaye Smith, for 25 years, but it doesn't stop some pockets of the internet wondering why he hasn't yet traded "up".
Since Monday another meme has surfaced – of Alexandra Grant smiling into the camera as if to say, “That’s right, bitches.” She has landed the man they call the nicest guy in the business. Whatever a few trolls say in a fit of Brexit boredom, you probably can’t get much better than that.