Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will go down as one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live. Birdman is one of the most creative films I’ve ever seen. Birdman was my most hyped film of 2014, but just like every time I really wanted to see a film so baldy I have to wait for a while until I finally get a chance to watch it, story of my life really.
Riggan Thomas, once known quite well to movie theater goers as an iconic super hero called “The Birdman” had recently turned down a fourth installment of the franchise. Now washed up, he attempts to reinvent himself as a director by staging a new adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. The events leading up to the Saturday night premiere prove to be one disaster after another as the original lead actor is injured while on set and Riggan scrambles to find a replacement, but the replacement proves to be exactly who he needs – a method actor who takes the job way too seriously, but Riggan has a hard time juggling between the set, his replacement actor, his equally washed up daughter, and a host of other disasters that prevent a proper staging of the play.
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu went above and beyond with this movie. It’s been purposefully designed to look like it was all one long take, and the pacing and energy works really well when you’re working in the tight confines of a theatre. It’s been supposedly announced that people told him not to do it, but the movie flows seamlessly because of this and the fact that Emmanuel Lubezki’s highly imaginative Cinematography goes above and beyond (Lubezki was responsible for the long 15 minute takes of Alfonso Cauron’s “Gravity” for which he won an Oscar and “Children of Men”). The music is the first soundtrack work of Mexican drummer Antonio Sánchez, and it’s entirely made up of Percussion instruments that when played on cue reflect both the upcoming events of the scenario, and Sánchez’s drummer friend actually appears on screen during the moments of the main characters aggressively fractured mind.
As Riggan, Michael Keaton is simply superb. It’s ridiculous to think that it’s been four years since he last headlined a movie, and even longer since he got a role as meaty as this. To say he makes the most of the opportunity is beyond an understatement. This was a role made for him, and the metaphysical in-jokes (George Clooney’s chin is a lovely reference) only add to the nuances. Riggan Thomas is a man driven by the fear of losing everything, and Keaton expresses it all brilliantly. The sharp script obviously helps, but Keaton’s ability to emote just with his eyes, or a twitch, is beautiful to watch. Just like McConaughey, this could see the beginning of Keaton’s resurgence. I sincerely hope so.
Everyone else pitches in too, though. Zach Galifianakis’ long-suffering producer; Naomi Watts’ insecure young actress; Andrea Riseborough’s frustrated girlfriend; Amy Ryan’s exhausted ex-wife; they’re all excellent in relatively small but significant roles. But of the supporting cast, Emma Stone and Edward Norton are a cut above. Norton is hilarious as the Broadway veteran, difficult to work with in his undying effort to find ‘truth’ on stage (mirroring Norton’s own storied behavioural issues). Emma Stone is also just incredible. It’s a character that starts off looking quite generic – young daughter out of rehab who doesn’t give a crap about anyone – but she comes into her own in a big way. Stealing every scene she’s in, including a fantastic final few seconds, Stone shows once again why she is one of the best actresses out there right now.
I feel that we’re witnessing really a piece which is close to perfection. I really enjoyed it very much and the true reason for that is the script. The story’s both particular and general view for modern acting and the current condition of the cinematic industry have really impressed me. Every line is on spot, the ideas are not new, but are presented very fresh. One can only reflect upon the true nature and signification of the theater, cinema and acting as a profession and way of life. Yes, way of life. Because after all, depending on the situation, we all tend to act and react. All humans are actors in a way.
Birdman gets a 9.5/10.
PS. Check out the main page for a quick analysis of Birdman’s ending!