2014, Fox Searchlight Pictures/New Regency/M Prods/Le Grisby Productions/TSG Entertainment/Worldview Entertainment
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
James W. Skotchdopole
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Michael Keaton (Riggan Thompson)
Emma Stone (Sam Thompson)
Zack Galifianakis (Jake)
Naomi Watts (Lesley)
Edward Norton (Mike)
Andrea Riseborough (Laura)
Amy Ryan (Sylvia)
Lindsey Duncan (Tabitha)
Michael Keaton was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of an actor making a comeback. Had it not been for him and Edward Norton, this movie would have been completely ho-hum, yet it still felt dull if that makes sense.
Riggan Thompson was once a big star, best known for playing the superhero Birdman in a series of action films. However, those days are long gone. Now struggling, he has a chance to make a comeback when he decides to bring the Raymond Carver play “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” to Broadway. With the help of best friend and lawyer Jake, Riggan intends to show people that he can go against type and attempts to assemble the best cast possible. However, he soon learns things don’t go as planned.
Riggan must deal with acclaimed actor Mike, who unwittingly improvises his lines and can only do his best on stage. Riggan faces issues with his daughter Sam, whom on the road to recovery, serves as his assistant. Not to mention the scathing reviews he receives during previews of the show before the big opening. However, none of all that compares to the simple fact that he is literally wrestling with his conscience, who wishes he had gone back to being Birdman again instead of going against type. Will all the pressures take its toll on the actor?
This film won the grand prize of Best Picture at the Academy Awards earlier this year, but did it really live up to the hype? Well, overall, the film felt kind of dull and depressing. However, it does have its moments and it is all because of Michael Keaton, who rightfully earned at least his nomination for Best Actor. Keaton tremendously drives the depressing story of an actor who just wants to make a comeback but in a different way and all the struggles he faces along the way. Riggan may seem like a dull character, but it is understandable with all the obstacles that stand in his way. As Riggan, we see Keaton having to deal with life both on and off the stage, external conflicts and internal conflicts within himself. While those expecting some joy in the actor’s comeback will be severely disappointed, Keaton really manages to handle himself quite well.
It seems like not only is Riggan a “dull, depressing” character, but practically everyone is in the film. Emma Stone, who normally manages to play light-hearted roles, goes against type as Riggan’s recovering daughter Sam while Edward Norton brings a sense of cockiness to his role of famous actor Mike, whom we learn has quite a few issues of his own off the stage and can only feel he can do his best on the stage. Think of it as a “reverse stagefright” if you will. The only character who brings any sort of optimism towards the whole entire play gig is Zack Galifianakis’ Jake, who as Riggan’s best friend, has to be that sort of crutch for the near-fallen actor.
That doesn’t go without saying, the highlight of the film and yes there is something there that doesn’t make this a complete dud, is the technical aspects, notably the cinematography and editing. Some nice long continuous takes during the backstage scenes to the stage are shot very well and bring a bit of color to the overall greyness of the film. There are a few comic moments that prevents the film from being a complete dud. This includes an improptu fight backstage between Keaton and Norton and a very nicely done dream-like sequence in which Riggan comes to face to face with his conscience, who just happens to be the very character he played in the past. The finale of the film does bring a sense of redemption value in the film as well, due to its part comic relief and part revelation.
However, Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), is too much of a dull and depressing movie that had it not been for Michael Keaton and Edward Norton, would have been a complete mess. It has some light moments, but ultimately, it is too grey for this reviewer.
WFG RATING: B-