Birdman is one of the most single brilliant films I have seen in ages. This isn’t just a movie. This isn’t just a love letter or a satire to and of the American theater. No, this film is one of the most unique, clever and downright amazing films I’ve seen in years. It’s the kind of film experience that only the genius of someone like Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu could bring to us. This is a movie that is an actor’s film, and yet at the same time, features some of the most magnificent and amazing scenes of the entire year. Birdman is a black comedy that everyone should see.
Birdman’s plot is that of the story of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton giving the best performance of his career), a washed up actor, who was famous for playing a superhero named Birdman in a trilogy of films. Riggan decides the best way to attempt a comeback, is by starring and staging in a play called, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Things, however, go disastrous, when Riggan’s lead actor is injured and the replacement is a method actor (Edward Norton), who thinks of himself way too highly and takes his job way too seriously. Riggan is also trying to keep up with his emotionally detached relationship with his daughter (Emma Stone). Riggan attempts to keep everything under-control especially while fighting with his ego (represented in a deep voice reminiscent of Keaton’s Batman voice) who continually reminds him of his glory days when he was on top of the world as his former film character Birdman.
This movie is an actor’s film, through and through. There is not a single performance in this movie I would consider average or mediocre, and considering it’s an assembled piece, that’s saying something. Everyone is in top form. In a comeback performance and as the lead, Keaton is perfect in a role that mirrors his own career as a washed up actor whose biggest days in the spotlight were when he was playing a superhero. The film even mentions the last Birdman film he made was in 1992 (the same year of Batman Returns). Keaton’s performance is the role of his lifetime, because not only does he plays an egotistical actor perfectly, but he shows his real range. The scenes where he fights with his own “ego”, are incredibly acted scenes from the actor. He delivers so many great lines, such as “This is not who we are” with such raw energy. A definite career all-time best performance for him.
The other actors are given a lot of time to shine, although this film is mainly “The Michael Keaton Show”. The film doesn’t shy away from letting the supporting performers have their moments to shine. Edward Norton is superb as Mike, an egotistical theater actor jerk, who sees himself as one of the greatest actors of all time and Riggan as a merely a washed up actor. The scene where we breaks down during a sneak preview and starts destroying the stage sets features some great acting from Norton. Emma Stone is also superb, in her best performance to date, as Riggan’s bored daughter who thinks of her dad as nothing more than a jerk. Her scene where she admits she’s using pot is Stone’s best acted scene in the whole film. Zach Galifianakis, not using his wheezing voice, is great as Riggan’s agent. Naomi Watts plays Lesley, an actress trying to make it big, and successfully manages to get a part in Riggan’s play. The scene where she claims to be a child at heart is greatly acted. Also rounding out the cast is Andrea Riseborough as Laura, and Amy Ryan as Sylvia, Riggan’s ex-wife. All of these actors work together and help make Birdman as magical a film as it is.
It’s not just the actors though who make this film great. Inarritu’s (director of Babel and 21 Grams) directing also deserves a lot of recognition. The amount of falling and ironic gags that happen during the film is amazing. The fact that the movie is one long continuous take (meaning that few scenes were actually shot for the film) is also something to appreciate and behold. The movie’s direction is one of the film’s best assets and largely part of the reason why it works. It’s a film that needs a director with a clear vision, and Inarritu is that kind of director.
Birdman’s script is simply magnificent. This film is a comedy through and through. With dialogue like “Oprah, hallmark, R. Kelly bad”, and “Play with my balls”, this film is uproariously funny from start to finish, never letting go of its “loose” sense of wacky humor. The film uses some Spanish music, which is nice to hear, and given that the director is Mexican, it makes sense, but since the movie is in English, it provides a unique flavor.
Choosing my favorite moment in Birdman is hard. Birdman is a movie with many fabulous sequences in it. There’s the opening shot of a comet falling, confusing the audience for a second, only to cut to Michael Keaton in his underwear floating. There’s also the scenes where Riggan is constantly fighting with himself, or running down the street naked. But my favorite sequence in the entire film was the scene where Riggan flies. Not only is the scene an example of the film’s use of warping reality (we aren’t sure if Riggan is truly flying or not), but the dramatic music and the way the flying is done, makes it one of the best movie scenes of the year for me.
It would be hard to truly describe my feelings about a movie like Birdman. It’s a magnificent piece of work, featuring terrific acting among the whole cast and some of the most fascinating and fabulous movie sequences of the year. A film that I think we will be talking about for years to come. A film that’s sure to get several Oscar nominations, including best actor for Michael Keaton. Birdman is one of those movies that needs to be seen on the big screen.