Jordan Peele is being regarded as one of the most formally interesting and profoundly creative filmmakers of the 2010s. His debut, 2017’s Get Out, sees Keener playing the creepy (and somewhat disturbing) mother of lead actor Daniel Kaluuya’s girlfriend (played here by Alison Williams). The film tackles race and politics with a fresh perspective, resulting in one of the best movies of the decade and one of Keener’s best roles.
One of many collaborations with Charlie Kaufman, Synecdoche, New York follows a playwright unable to stop increasing the scope of his magnum opus after receiving a large grant. Keener plays his exhausted-seeming wife, fed up with her husband’s creative unfulfillment and looking for an escape. It’d be an honor to work with Kaufman in any capacity, and Keener has gotten to do so more than a few times.
A miniseries on HBO from the creative team responsible for The Wire and Crash, Show Me a Hero matches up Keener and Oscar Isaac to tell a politically-driven story about public housing in Yonkers, New York. Keener thrives in roles like this where she’s able to show off her skills as a dramatic actor.
Her first collaboration with Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich is a strange story about a man who discovers a portal leading to the inside of actor John Malkovich’s head inside his office building. Keener plays the character’s boss, joining John Cusack and Cameron Diaz (and Malkovich, of course) to create one of the most absurd and engrossing entries in 20th century film.
Based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, Into the Wild follows a young man who leaves his life behind to travel through the Alaskan wilderness all on his own. Keener shows up more often than other characters as Jan, adding another solid dramatic performance to her filmography of hits.
Considered to be the ultimate tribute to independent filmmaking (a system that has rewarded Keener gratefully throughout the years), Living in Oblivion is a film about filmmaking. It takes place over the course of one day on the set of a low-budget production, with Keener acting alongside Steve Buscemi and Dermot Mulroney to convey just how dire things are for aspiring moviemakers.
The story of a bank robber who gets out of jail and competes with a kidnapped U.S. Marshall for the same woman’s love, Out of Sight comes from Steven Soderbergh and stars George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, and (of course) Catherine Keener. The movie is as smart and as original as anything else she’s done
A biopic about the author of In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, as he slowly develops a relationship with the killer he’s interviewing, Capote puts Keener on-screen with Philip Seymour Hoffman once more. She’s playing Nelle Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird and close personal friend of Capote’s, proving to make even the tired biopic format engrossing.
A romantic comedy about middle-aged love, Enough Said stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini along with Keener and Toni Collette. It’s a sweet and compassionate film, something that Keener doesn’t often go for but so successfully delivers in.
In a similar vein as Enough Said, The 40-Year-Old Virgin is famous filmmaker Judd Apatow’s directorial debut about a man who has gone four decades without ever getting into a serious relationship. Keener helps him change that, another great example of how good she can be in any kind of role thrown her way.