Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman_Film ReviewDirected by …. Alejandro González Iñárritu
Written by…. Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone,
Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo

Director of Photography … Emmanuel Lubezki
Music by Antonio Sanchez … (original score)

Cast:
Michael Keaton … Riggan
Emma Stone … Sam
Edward Norton … Mike
Zach Galifianakis… Jake
Naomi Watts … Lesley
Jeremy Shamos … Ralph
Andrea Riseborough Laura
Lindsay Duncan … Tabitha

Run Time 119 minutes Color
Aspect Ratio 1.85 : 1
Camera Arri Alexa XT M, Leica Summilux-C and Zeiss Master Prime Lenses

 

Birdman was one of a handful of movies I had been following, the more I read about the cast and concept, the more I was fasinated. This was one of those films I had to see as soon as it was released. I had high hopes for Birdman. They were completely satisfied. I loved watching this film and it has as a result (co-)claimed the top spot at the top of my list.

Birdman follows the story of Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton), a washed up actor who is recognized solely as Birdman, a superhero he played in the nineties. Now, in an attempt to reclaim his former glory, he is writing, directing, and staring in a Broadway play based on a story by Raymond Carver. He has put everything on the line to put on a great play, but is told by a theater critic, Tabitha Dickenson (Lindsay Duncan) that she will kill his play no matter what.

Meanwhile, Riggan has to replace one of the leads only one day before previews with Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), one of the brattiest characters to ever hit the silver screen but also one of the best actors in New York who is in a rocky relationship with co-star Lesley (Naomi Watts). Riggan also has to deal with his daughter, Sam (Emma Stone), just out of rehab, his girlfriend/cast member, Laura (Andrea Riseborough), and Jake (Zack Galifinakis), his best friend & lawyer, yelling at him from all sides about everything a good producer should. As if that weren’t enough though, there’s one more thing: Riggan may or may not have actual superpowers, himself (possibly separate from those of Birdman).

But despite everything, the script is beautifully crafted by this quartet of Mexican filmmakers, with plenty of Aaron Sorkin-esque dialogue and allusions to “Macbeth”, as well as to a plethora of superheroes, too.

This film is also features remarkable cinematography. The entire film was shot in a way feels like it’s all one shot; though in fact it is actually comprised of many, it is comprised of takes lasting 7-15 minutes each to remarkable effect. To pull this off, you need the best actors you can get your hands on. There again, co-writer & director Alejandro G. Iñarritu, who’s past credits include Babel, Biutiful, and 21 Grams, succeeds with flying colors.

Keaton, in his meta role after starring in 1989’s Batman and its sequel, Batman Returns (1992), is astonishing, His emotions are all over the place and yet, it was just grounded enough for me to buy him as a real human being. Expect him to claim glory come Oscar Sunday. As Mike Shiner, Norton gives what is probably his best performance. Even more amazing than just playing Shiner, he plays Shiner playing other characters and it never feels like Norton playing another character. Emma Stone delivered just as good of a performance in what could have been a stereotypical one though. Combined, this trio tops their respective acting categories on my list. However, Watts, Riseborough, and Ryan were all fantastic and utterly engrossing; while Galifinakis proved yet again to be quite adept at a dramatic role.

The ending might shirk some people the wrong way, and indeed, it felt like an ending only a film student could come up with, but I loved it for just that reason.

Lane J Lubell

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