Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Starring Michael Keaton, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Zach Galifinakis
**SPOILER ALERT: I’m actually going to keep this review fairly sparse, so hopefully spoilers will be kept to a minimum, and even then, only accidentally spoiled**
I was able to get to a pre-screening of Birdman last night, and here’s a few of my thoughts on it.
Much has been made of this film, not least of which is the seeming parallel between Michael Keaton and Riggan Thomson, the central character of the film.
Forget what you’ve heard. This film is about anything BUT that unjustly applied comparison.
Birdman deals with an actor’s desire for validation, and, by extension, all artists’ desire for acceptance by their peers.
But Birdman is more than even that.
Birdman is about the battle that rages within each of us, no matter who we are, over whether we are who we are supposed to be, or if we are meant for something different/more/better.
Keaton’s Riggan Thomson, the former superhero movie star, who declined a fourth installment of Birdman twenty years ago, is staging a Broadway production in an attempt to—well, there is actually a lot of discussion in the film about why he is doing it. Perhaps you should decide for yourself what you think is the reason. Regardless, Riggan has adapted a short story by Raymond Carver (“What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”), which he also chooses to direct and star in.
Andrea Riseborough plays one of the female leads, and is also personally involved with Riggan. She tells him she may be pregnant early in the movie, and wants desperately only to be loved.
Edward Norton plays Mike, the Broadway golden boy that sells tickets, who comes in to replace an actor in Riggan’s Broadway debut after an accident during rehearsal. Mike doesn’t think much of Riggan’s adaptation, however, and his method acting often runs counter to what Riggan thinks he is trying to do with his production.
Naomi Watts plays Lesley, the other female lead. She recommends Mike, who she is currently living with, into the cast, after his previous job ends (fired or quit?)
Emma Stone plays Sam, Riggan’s daughter, fresh out of rehab and trying to connect with her father, so often absent during her formative years and after his divorce from her mother. It is, in my opinion, Sam who eventually spells out the crux of Riggin’s—and hence the film’s—uncertainty and stress in a beautiful piece of monologue prior to opening night.
Throughout, we are treated to the interplay of a supremely talented cast portraying talented, yet troubled, cast-mates, as they navigate their various anxieties in the ways they have learned—or not learned—throughout their lives.
The thumping drum score drives the sometimes manic depictions of life on Broadway—of life in general—throughout the film, accompanying Riggan on his journey, and we along with him.
Iñárritu uses what seems to be one continuous shot to depict the 3-4 day window of action, and it really does add to the film as a whole. It’s no gimmick. Life is a series of scenes, all strung together, whether we recognize or remember the transitions between them or not.
Keaton has fully justified all of the awards chatter with his performance, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stone or Norton slide into a supporting nomination or two, either.
In the end, Birdman may very well be the best movie you will see this year, as long as you are willing to dive into these characters’ world and experience their pain, their doubt, their love, and recognize them for what they truly are: