"I think I want to end therapy. I don't know, I feel like it's time, y'know. I feel like I want to go at it alone for awhile. I mean here I am completely single and I'm not SO depressed about it. (Pause.) It's hard with Laura being so grotesquely in love... but I'm still okay. (Pause.) And its been forever since I've been obsessed with someone, so I think I'm doing a lot better in that area..."
-Amelia, Walking and Talking (1996)
If misery loves company, it has exchanged vows with Catherine Keener. She's made a career of trudging through the wreckage of characters' neuroses and judgment -- still somehow offsetting their scalding words with a cool, collective charm. A sharp acidic wit underlies even her most sentimental supporting parts. If strong, funny and flawed female roles are a rarity, it's simply because they're all currently occupied by Catherine Keener.
Menial day to day tasks like Walking and Talking become means for Catherine to brilliantly devour and dissect everyday perils -- such as the dating world; one small step for single woman kind, one giant leap for Nicole Holofcener's career. Obviously Catherine is Friends with Money to writer/director Holofcener, and their frequent collaborations have marked some of the most richly textured but stripped-bare arcs for women in modern comedy. In Catherine's care these characters flounder, they curse, they belittle, and yet somehow remain undeniably genuine. They never fully overcome their weaknesses, but it's their sardonic perception of themselves and their surroundings that ring so painfully (hysterically) true, and possibly lead them in the the right direction by the films' end. For as much as they struggle to find their path, wade through dismantling marriages (see also: Your Friends & Neighbors and Full Frontal) and begrudge the happiness of others, at least their mothers still think they're Lovely & Amazing. If Catherine's characters teach us anything it's that even if you're miserable inside, you still have to be able to sell yourself to others.
"Listen, Mister... This s**t is pretty!"-Michelle, Lovely & Amazing (2001)
Catherine's cinematic trials occasionally peak into darker territory -- even (quite literally) branding Ellen Page a "prostitute" -- but by and large she finds her trademark scathing charisma through her characters more everyday pains. Be it de-virginizing a forty-year-old man or an underage Jake Gyllenhaal (misery only in the legal repercussions), Catherine's career has spanned a wealth of women whose age and experience has molded them perfectly to dismantle any and all despairing matters of social construct. With biting, understated ease, Catherine Keener has shown that it's simpler just to say "f**k off," but doing so ignores the wonderful art in insult and disregard. And because a bit of dry, insensitive wit takes longer for others to process.
"I am dubious, but I don't welsh."
-Maxine, Being John Malkovich (1999)