or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton
Review by Jordan (yep, I’m still here!)
Birdman is truly a technical marvel, showcasing an intricate eye for detail and precision through meticulous editing, brave cinematography and a joyous musical score led by Brian Blade’s up-tempo drum composition.
Directed with verve and energy by Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful), and boasting a darkly comedic undertone at the expense of Michael Keaton’s washed-up action star Riggan, here is a critically acclaimed film that will strike all the right notes with cinema connoisseurs and the hardware-minded, but through offering little outside it’s themes of identity and purpose, and relying heavily on its means of production may alienate the rest.
Aging and losing touch with celebrity and social culture, former star of the “Birdman” (read: Batman) franchise Riggan (Keaton) has thrown caution and reputation to the wind to write, direct and star in a literary Broadway play. Preparation goes from bad to worse when the supporting actor is almost killed by a fallen floodlight, and just when his lawyer/production manager Jake (Zach Galifianakis) is about to have a nervous breakdown and Riggan’s alter ego is threatening to take over entirely, enter acting prodigy Mike (Edward Norton) to save the day…
Unfortunately though, he only somewhat saves the day, as Mike’s appearance brings an even more intense level of stress, as he further strains the relationships between Riggan and his leading lady Lesley (Naomi Watts) and daughter Sam (Emma Stone), who is fresh out of rehab and seeking any excuse to relapse.
The creative process can indeed be a terrifying one.
Witnessing Michael Keaton parodying art imitating life as his mind deteriorates and actions become more and more unpredictable is truly wonderful, as its seems so long since his last great role. His performance stands as one of the best of 2014, emitting frustration, despair, anger and self-loathing with subtle movements in his weathered brow and intensity in his weary eyes, with the other standout being Norton, whose superb arrogance shines through even when being punched in the face while wearing nothing but underwear. Watts (a Iñárritu favorite after appearing in 21 Grams also) and Galifianakis (cast against type) are serviceable, while Emma Stone slightly disappoints in a cliched portrayal of a very cliched character, with her casting also being the most obvious an uninspired.
Birdman is indeed a masterwork in production technique and a character piece par excellence, but it is no masterpiece, choosing to separate itself from the audience in implementing art-house elements and an introverted feel (never does it feel that this tale could take place in a habitable world, but rather a melodramatic version of one). Once the curtains closed and all the blood, sweat and tears had been shed, I applauded and left the cinema, content having been entertained but not lost in the moment and events nor wishing to linger on them.
As the slightly poignant note on Riggan’s dressing room mirror says though: “A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.”
4 YouTube sensations out of 5