Review of: Birdman

Rating 4.0
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Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is an actor from a fading action-hero movie franchise that is having a creative and personal crisis. He no longer feels respected or relevant as an actor. To resolve these crises he is putting on a stage adaption of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

Riggan is understandably nervous, dealing with actor’s egos, a vengeful theater critic, a daughter fresh out of rehab, and a production that is not going well, as we see him in the days and hours leading to the play opening. We also see him floating in air and talking to the Birdman in a movie poster (the super-hero he used to play). Is he cracking up? Does he have some power as a result of so much time playing a super-hero? Or is it just a stupid movie metaphor? I don’t know, I think when you see the movie you won’t know either. But you will talk about it. That is just one of the things about this movie that will make it an Oscar contender.

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The cast is another thing that makes this film outstanding. I have always enjoyed Michael Keaton’s ability to bring both humor and sadness to roles. As Riggan he is manic, sad and incredibly funny, sometimes in the same scene. He make us want to understand and root for Riggan. I cannot imagine any other actor who could have sustained the film’s energy, pacing, and heart as well. Keaton should be in the running for an Oscar.
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Edward Norton is Mike an actor who is brought into the production at the last minute and is a perfect high energy, ego-driven foil to Riggan’s confused efforts to keep things together. Mike is just too perfect and too annoying. But he is fascinating and we want to know more about this character.

Emma Stone plays Sam, Riggen’s daughter and just out of rehab. She was hired to be Riggen’s assistant but tends to just tell her dad why he is no longer relevant. But her scenes with Keaton and Norton are a big part of why this story has heart.

I have already mentioned Oscar twice in this review. But I have saved the best for last. If Alejandro González Iñárritu does not get the Best Director Oscar this year I will be extremely surprised and disappointed.

Iñárritu took very long takes, intricate camera movements, some CGI, a jazz soundtrack and built a seamless, pulsing, immersive, intimate experience. It feels like you are an anonymous character in the film, following the other characters around from scene to scene. And there are no discernible breaks between scenes even though there are jumps in space and time. It is like what was first done by Hitchcock in Rope(1948), but turned up to 11!

 

In Theaters: October 17th (Limited Release)