“A highly relevant urban tale that acknowledges reality and stylistically brings forth an actor’s struggle to reclaim his mastery “

Birdman (2014): Movie Review

‘Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance’ was one film I was really excited to watch on the big screen, mostly because of the buzz around its camera and editing works, which I must say is brilliant. Through this black comedy, Alejandro Inarittu openly takes a swing at the superhero films and blockbusters which idolize and typecast most actors. The film (literally) revolves around Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), the star from the 80s (or early 90s) better known to all as ‘Birdman’ but now a diminishing actor, and his attempt to portray an adaptation of  a Raymond Carver story named ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ on the Broadway. It also invisibly cuts into his broken relationship with his ex-wife Sylvia (Anna Ryan), girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough) and daughter Sam (Emma Stone).

"What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" starring Riggin Thomson

(“What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” starring Riggan Thomson)
Michael Keaton & Edward Norton

Throughout the film, Riggan encounters his ego in the form of ‘Birdman’ – the character/role that catapulted him into the limelight. This personification of his ego turns out to be the haunting villain in his life as well as the empowering force that drives him. Riggan does reflect on his obsession with his character during his years, which wrecked his family life and also displays his aversion towards it by fighting with it. Riggan, who now leads a fading career as an actor ambitiously forays into directing the play based on Carver’s short story. This venture is Riggan’s quest for relevancy and re-establishing his fame as an actor and ‘getting out of that feathered suit’ that has been holding him back. Michael Keaton should be praised for his classy performance and courage to take up this role, which playfully mocks his own career in a way. The fact that Keaton once played ‘Batman’, and that too in the 80s, adds an extra dimension to the film.

Edward Norton portrays Mike Shiner, an adept method actor who comes in as a replacement for another role in Riggan’s play. Shiner quickly gets in sync and settles down with the rest of the crew, but proving to be a competition for Riggan in terms of acting. Emma Stone plays Sam Thomson, Riggan’s daughter and also his assistant, an ex-junkie (who ‘seems’ to be recovering). Her explosive monologue on ‘relevancy’ to her father is one of the strongest scenes in the movie. Naomi Watts also displays her acting skills through Lesly – a passionate actress, who is about to make her first Broadway appearance. One unlikely but highly admirable performance was displayed by Zack (yes) Galifianakis, and I hope that he would take up such serious roles in future.

Its fascinating how composer Antonio Sanchez has glued in and brought out the feel of this film with scores made just using drums. The unexpected abruptness and groove in the score suits the satirical atmosphere of the film. There are certain scenes in which I felt an intentionally induced sync between the dialogues and the score (BIRDMAN: “Coffee” Scene). Cinematography is another integral component that makes this film unique. Emmanuel Lubezki who is one of the top cinematographers out there has skillfully maneuvered the camera covering scenes from the gloomy lit backstage to the vibrant and eruptive crowd at Times Square. Kudos to the editing department for making the whole movie appear like a single shot with intelligent cuts and, adding in an appropriate chroma that fills in the mood in every shot.

 BIRDMAN: “Coffee” Scene

‘Birdman’, in a nutshell, is an entertaining film that does justice to the art of film making. The script by Inarittu which he wrote with his successful co-writers from Biutiful (2010), has brought out an engaging and thoughtful exchange of dialogues that grips the audience at various levels. As a one line review, ‘Birdman’ is a highly relevant urban tale that acknowledges reality and stylistically brings forth an actor’s struggle to reclaim his mastery and redefine his persona by shedding those feathers that caged him. ‘Birdman’ does rise above most of the other films released last year and in Inarittu’s filmography.

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