There are films you experience and there are films you view. Do you know the difference? A film you experience is one that you become completely immersed, that you lose yourself to the world in which you are subjected to. Experiences like Birdman do not come along everyday. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu opens his film with his main character hovering, weightless, in his underwear, deciphering the current state of his life. It’s the only time the camera, and the audience, are given a reprieve in the film, as it is shot completely in long takes. It’s a movie in name, but a test of endurance for your mind. So come along with me now and enjoy the tale of the Birdman.
Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is a washed-up Hollywood actor looking to reinvent his career. Thomson is best known for his role as the Birdman, a successful superhero franchise that skyrocketed the actor to worldwide popularity. After leaving the franchise after three mega hits, Thomson found that replicating the success for his Birdman persona was a lot easier said than done. Spending the next twenty years wallowing in mediocrity takes a toll on a man, and Riggan Thomson is ready for a change. The actor decides the best way to do this is by writing, directing, and starring in a play, an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”.
Knowing the challenge ahead of him, Thomson enlists the help of his best friend/lawyer Jake (Zack Galifianakis) to produce the film and his daughter Sam (Emma Stone), a recovering drug addict, to serve as his assistant. The cast is made up of Riggan’s girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough), first-time-Broadway-actress Lesley (Naomi Watts), and Mike (Edward Norton), Lesley’s troubled boyfriend. With the show about to open, Riggan begins to hear the voice of his alter ego, Birdman, berating him for the life choices he’s made. Experiencing these bouts also leads to fits of anger which are depicted in Riggan’s mind by the way of telekinesis and levitation.
After the first of a series of preview nights for the play, Riggan reads some early reviews and becomes enraged that Mike has stolen the spotlight. Riggan desperate to be relevant again, begins to spiral into an emotionally conflicted state which pits him against the people he loves and the success of the play. A man who has spent the majority of his life searching for answers to how to sustain his relevance is now faced with the harsh realities that he, like the rest of the world, do not matter. The time may have arrived to accept the truths about his current state of being and learn to adapt, but can Riggan dismiss his need for acceptance?
Birdman is an astonishing technical film from start to finish. Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera work is phenomenal and the transition from scene to scene is magically edited to appear as one long take. Iñárritu (21 Grams) navigates this extremely ambitious film with spectacular skill and creates not only a technically beautiful film, but a movie that’s intimate and emotional at it’s core. Michael Keaton is absolutely astonishing as Riggan Thomson. The characters mental roller coaster allows Keaton to explore his characters emotional core and he succeeds in his portrayal with an Oscar worthy performance. Edward Norton is fantastic as the arrogant Broadway lifer. An actor known for his difficulties on sets feel right at home in this role. Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis are truly delightful as well but it is Emma Stone who steals the show. Stone’s character represents hope to Keaton’s Riggan and the two are magical together.
Overall, Birdman is a movie that is ambitious and thought-provoking which will delight film goers who search a movie with style and substance. We will definitely be hearing from this movie come award season.
4 out of 5
After Credit Scene?