Keanu Reeves did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Perry Lyman in Thumbsucker.
Keanu Reeves is an actor that I will admit I've come to appreciate to the point that even in his objectively bad performances there's something worth noting in the way only he could give that very terrible performance, in that way. Reeves has a one of a kind presence, which is worth something all on its own. Now that might not be the best for every role, but with the right role it can do wonders. The latter is the case here in Thumbsucker where he plays the orthodontist Perry to our main character, who attempts to help Justin with his thumb related dilemma. Reeves plays the part of the orthodontist as though he is some sort of zen master. Reeves delivers every line as though it is an essential part of his sage philosophy, as he attempts to help Justin get to the root of his problem. Reeves's approach is downright hilarious as he keeps this air of greater importance about him, with his otherworldly detachment as though he knows all the secrets that the universe may contain. In this though Reeves offers just the slight sense of desperation about it, as though it just might be an attempt to act like he knows everything rather than that he actually knows everything. I particularly like the subtle anxiousness he brings when Perry refuses to tell Justin his "power animal", despite having pictures of wolves all around his room.
After Justin rejects Perry's teaching rather forwardly, by running him off the rode in a bike race, Reeves is absent for awhile. Perry though returns unexpectedly, which a good thing because Reeves continues to be pretty amazing. Reeves drops the whole act completely only leaving just the slight leftover traces of that hippie guru personality of before. Perry is now a changed man, who has dropped his old philosophy for something new. Although what Perry is saying seems positive enough, as he even thanks Justin for incurring this change and seems to ask him about his family as though a friend or a mentor would, Reeves brings this brilliant absurdly palatable passive aggression throughout the scene. In every technical pleasantry, there is such a powerful undercurrent of venom through Reeves eyes and expression, that suggests maybe Perry isn't so happy in his new state of mind. Reeves is great as he serves the character, while being so effortlessly amusing at the same time. We unfortunately don't see Reeves again until the end of the film, but once again the wait is worth it due to Reeves's performance. Justin, after apparently "coming of age" goes to visit Perry for one more check up and "pep" talk. Perry once again offers his advice though this time the advice being that there's no real correct answer in the end. Again the way it is worded seems positive enough. Reeves once again is wonderful by creating the subtext within it. Reeves provides this overwhelming despair in Perry throughout the scene, presenting almost a husk of a man as he despondently looks off, and the only possible hope is the broken smile of a man who has given up on life. This is fantastic work by Reeves as he gives a consistently entertaining performance that also so effectively transforms Perry from a man who thinks he knows all the answers to a man who is all too aware that he knows nothing.