No one around here really wants to have the Save-a-Fading-Hollywood-Icon conversation every day. But less than 24 hours after Ed McMahon's sad, bought-and-paid-for declaration that "I am officially a rapper," the quiet dumping of Diane Keaton's new film Smother (or the fact that there even is a Diane Keaton film called Smother) leaves us no real choice. The Oscar-winner's latest is her fourth consecutive Straight-to-Flopz™ effort since 2007, as well as the third during that time (alongside Because I Said So and Mama's Boy) in which she's portrayed a suffocating harpy mom. Worse yet — depressingly so — Smother is the first Diane Keaton film in our adult lifetimes that we didn't even know existed until after it opened. Not. Cool. And it's not like rookie distributor Variance Films didn't have a trailer (follow the jump), a decent cast (Liv Tyler, Dax Shepard, Mike White) or even a fun poster to market. So what happened?Part of it is Keaton's own fault. After a tandem comprising Something's Gotta Give (her most recent Oscar-nominated role) and The Family Stone, Keaton has coasted chronically through paycheck after paycheck. We'd seen hints as recently as 2001, when her mob comedy Plan B went straight to video, but her reputation as a selective stateswoman of American cinema slid for real with Because I Said So and the heist flick Mad Money. They combined for $62 million domestically but were generally reviled as beneath their star. And they were beneath Keaton; The Family Stone wasn't going to make anyone forget Annie Hall as a whole, but as late-career matriarch roles go, she was as good as she'd ever been. Then came the DVD- (and hell-) ready Mama's Boy, co-starring Jon Heder and essentially remade as Smother with a date-movie-palatability quotient bumped up. Neither found traction with critics, but Variance didn't bother with press or preview screenings at all. That settled it for critics, with Ebert-thwacking indie grump Lou Lumenick positing "Diane Keaton Scrapes the Barrel" and another reviewer asking: "Does Diane Keaton owe some loan sharks a considerable amount of cash? Are there incriminating photos of her that she’s insistent never see the light of day?" We wouldn't rule it out. And the thing is, she's still so smart and funny and beautiful — too much so for all of this. Smother, Diane? Really? The optimist in us has to move ahead assuming it's a rough patch, but so help us, if we her selling credit reports in a miniskirt on Pimp Ed McMahon's arm, we'll come save her ourselves. This is serious.
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