A film loved by critics and one can see why, but Birdman also had my attention immediately. Unique and darkly humorous, Michael Keaton at his very best.
Riggan Thomson is a washed out, down on his luck actor who once had Hollywood fame as the superhero Birdman. Hoping to reignite his life’s significance he writes, directs and stars in a Broadway stage drama… all the while haunted by the voice in his head of the fictional Birdman persona.
Things only get more stressful as he must hire in an egotistical method actor who starts to undermine his relevance even further.
As a child growing up, Michael Keaton was a prominent movie star, namely for Batman, Batman Returns and Bettlejuice, and it always saddened me how he sort of faded away. Seeing Birdman as a metaphor for his own career perhaps I was immediately drawn to see it, and while there are certainly big points of comparison between Keaton’s Batman and Riggan’s Birdman, this is one of this film’s lesser subtexts.
Birdman (and as the title screen adds: “or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance“) is a complex and involved look into personal value and the human need for acceptance in an ever changing world. Keaton’s character is clearly haunted by ghosts of his past and almost delusional with them, and try as he might we can see his current project is falling apart at the seams.
The performances from an incredible cast, Keaton as Riggan, Edward Norton (is the man ever in a bad movie?) as his rival Mike and Emma Stone as Riggan’s bitter and angst-ridden daughter. Heck even Zach Galifianakis, a man I never credit much for, delivers great effort here! I couldn’t help but be completely enveloped by these characters and especially Riggan’s plight…
It is hard to not sympathise with our main protagonist’s trauma, and a hatred-fuelled speech from Emma Stone really hits home quite how sad and downtrodden Riggan’s life has become.
But performances and personal investment aside (as if they weren’t big enough reasons for me to like this film) the editing is genius. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has seamlessly folded every scene together and presented it as one single shot; the camera is forever gliding through the rooms and halls of this Broadway theatre house, we don’t cut away or clearly jump from one day to the next. It is virtually seamless editing, giving everything a dreamlike quality.
It is something of a critic’s movie. It is a black comedy drama about the creative frailties of film-making, the seedy underbelly of personal vendettas this can inspire, and the good people who are blindly swept into it all. The film even takes a joy in depicting critics as monsters.
A very good, humorous movie with a lot of grim and compelling resonance. Anyone who likes film as a medium, or Keaton, Norton or Stone, and quirky dramas need apply.
If you didn’t know by now, no it isn’t a superhero movie!