A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Alejandro G. Inarritu
Written by: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo.
Produced by: New Regency Pictures, Wordview Entertainment, Le Grisbi Productions, M Prods, TSG Entertainment (In Association With)
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifinakis, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan.
BIRDMAN is a film that moviegoers will remember long after 2014 has come to a close. The movie is hilarious, piercing, smart, and wonderfully surreal. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has made good movies in the past, but this is undeniably his best.
Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) was famous once. He used to play the superhero Birdman, but his fame has faded and now he is trying to bring himself back into the limelight. He is trying to mount a play that he is writing, starring and directing. Everything that can go wrong is. One of his actors gets hit on the head and incapacitated. He is replaced by Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), an arrogant, difficult actor who threatens to impede his project.
Among some more of his obstacles include a caricature of the modern critic who says that she’s going to sink his play, his daughter (Emma Stone), who just got out of his rehab, and several social media incidences, including a situation where he gets locked out of the theater and has to walk through Times Square in his underwear.
BIRDMAN is a film about its actors. The other aspects of the picture work as well but without the acting the movie would collapse upon itself. I’ve always loved Michael Keaton, whether its his work in movies like JACKIE BROWN or his turn in the Tim Burton BATMAN films he has a certain presence that you can’t get from any other actor. He is his own performer. For a while I thought the character was written so that Keaton was playing himself but he has said that Riggan, out of all the characters he has played, is the farthest removed from himself. I’ll take his word for it.
Regardless whether or not he’s playing himself he is magnificent, conveying the perfect levels of desperation and insanity to display the place his character is in right now. Riggan might think he’s a mediocre actor, but Keaton certainly isn’t. A comeback would be absolutely wonderful, because there really is only one Michael Keaton.
The supporting cast is ripe as well. Emma Stone gives her best performance thus far, she is able to add the certain sting that her characters lines require. This is by far her angriest role, and the first I’ve seen of hers that allowed for serious exploration of the character. Stone is more than up to the task.
Ed Norton is an actor who has always been great at playing unlikable, and gives a comedic turn here that warrants serious consideration. Amy Ryan and Naomi Watts are good, albeit underutilized as Riggan’s ex-wife and the female lead of Riggan’s play. A turn that surprised me though, was Zach Galifinakis as Riggan’s agent. Galifinakis is hysterical here, and finally has decided to shed his character from THE HANGOVER. His comedic timing is more downplayed, more subtle, but no less effective.
Noteworthy also, are the excellent, Oscar worthy cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki and the equally superb editing by Douglas Criss and Stephen Mirrione. Innaritu’s direction mixed with these aspects make BIRDMAN look as though it was one take. It isn’t, but while watching the film the editing, direction, and cinematography make it feel seamless.
BIRDMAN is one of the best films of 2014. It reminds me of one of the great black comedies of the 60’s and 70’s. It you haven’t seen it yet it is strongly recommended that you do so. This is a film that will be around for a long time, and hopefully Keaton will be back in the limelight.
Suggestion: See it