Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue Of  Ignorance).


Much has been made about Michael Keaton's performance in (Birdman),and he is, as are all the actors in this film, fantastic. It is great to see this wonderful actor again in such a substantial role, and he inhabits the character of: (Riggan Thomas) completely. The Oscar buzz is deserved, as it should be also for Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, and surely Emma Stone. Even Zach Galifianakis should get award consideration playing Riggan's protective friend and lawyer: Jake.

With all that being said, I will first admit that I am a big fan of director: Alejandro González Iñárritu. While many reviews had said that his last film: (Biutiful), was too gloomy and disjointed, I thought it was a brilliant piece of filmmaking from one of the most talented writer/directors in the last few years. His idea and vision of this strange film, coupled with it's excellent execution, is something you have to give huge props to him for taking such a chance, especially in it's almost cut-free filming and editing that could have gone so wrong, but doesn't. It reminded me at times, of another wonderful filmmaker out there:(Paul Thomas Anderson) and his visionary movie: (Magnolia), in its presentation, narrative, and scope.

There is no mistaking the parallels between Keaton and the character of Riggans, when it comes to the fact that both men portrayed, in very successful films, a superhero, and that they then, at their peak, quit the role that made them rich and famous. Keaton said the third script was shit, and so does Riggins. It adds weight to Keaton's character, and his weary, lined face, shows the pain of man, who made millions off of popcorn fluff, but never received the critical accolades he so wants now. He wants redemption, and decides to bankroll a Broadway play: (What We Talk About When We Talk About Love), adapted by himself from his hero: Raymond Carver. The choice is bizarre, and only adds fuel to the comedy of errors that befall the cast.

So we have, at the beginning, Riggins, who seems to be floating in a meditative state in his dressing room, waiting to do a rehearsal for a scene, where he hates the other male actor in the play. He thinks he sucks, and he does. When an apparent accident, (Riggins thinks differently), takes the actor out of commission, a replacement is needed immediately.

Enter the very talented, but unpredictable and explosive, renowned stage actor: Mike (Norton), who is dating the female lead: Lesley (Watts), who is thrilled she is finally getting a chance to be on Broadway. Riggins is excited at first, as Mike is a actor who believes in being totally real on stage, and he pushes Riggan to another level of acting. He also pushes just about everything else and anybody in his way. Mike is also a darling of the critics. Riggan knows this, and is hopeful this will help when the play hits. Meanwhile, Riggan’s assistant and daughter: Sam (Stone), who is out of rehab, resentful of her absent in her life dad, and she trudges along doing her duties with a sharp tongue for anybody close. Stone is great in this role; a real standout. Oh, by the way, the other female actor in the play, who Riggan is dating, may or may not be pregnant with his baby.

On top of all of this, Riggan has to mortgage a home to front the money for the play, and his ex wife: Sylvia (Amy Ryan), is not too happy about it, although she still cares very much for him.

The capper in this movie is that Riggan’s alter ego: (The Birdman himself), keeps taunting him to leave this Broadway bullshit behind and go back to making the movies that made him rich and famous. It is the battle of the ID versus ego, and these scenes are almost as much funny as they are somewhat menacing. Is Riggan imagining what is going on? Is he going crazy? Is there any way he can be fulfilled by this play, and be legitimized by a good review?

The camera constantly follows these people on the stage, off the stage, into the street, and back through the bowels of the St. James Theater, and along with the wonderful almost exclusive drum soundtrack to the film, the pace and energy is truly engaging. I was never even remotely not interested. This is a wonderful and unique film; another gem from Iñárritu. The little steps in and out of a real narrative work well, even when they shouldn’t. This is just my take, but an action scene with Birdman being attacked by some kind of Mecha monster destroying part of the theater district, is absurd and distracting on purpose. it’s just visual noise, like a lot of Hollywood crap….Iñárritu’s little jab., along with some actor name droppings for good measure.

The big jab, and in my opinion,  the best scene in this movie, is a confrontation Riggan has with the stuffy theater critic: Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan), who can make or break his play with a few stinging words in her review. When she tells him he will get the worst review ever by her no matter what she sees, the dialogue that follows on both sides, is something many an actor and many a critic have imagined having with one and other after one too many spirits, but never do. It is acidic and glorious… a double Fuck You.

Birdman, is an original and different kind of film, that is off  the beaten path that you should see. If you don’t like it, at least there is a scene where a monster destroys a city street while trying to defeat a superhero.

That’s cool.

watch the trailer: