It is a pretentious title and rightly so. This is a quirky, black comedy about actors and their egos. It’s about commercial blockbuster films versus tiny, indie plays. It’s a David and Goliath of the soul.
Having read nothing about the film before I went to see it, I was expecting a superhero movie. Birdman couldn’t be further from this action/ fantasy genre. There’s fantasy of course. This Birdman concept is a perfect metaphor for an overinflated ego, self-obsession and constant inner reflection which fuels gradual mental deterioration.
In brief, it is the story of a once popular actor, Riggan (Keaton) known for his iconic action hero role as Birdman who is now trying to get a Broadway play off the ground. When an accident befalls his lead actor, they employ Mike (Edward Norton) to replace him. A typical method actor driven purely by his own ego, he turns the entire production on its head and challenges Riggan to the point of mental meltdown.
People are either going to love or hate this film. And to be fair, there is much to love and to hate about it.
What you will love: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, the quirky storyline, the dysfunctional and utterly insecure actors.
What you will hate: the pace of the film, the limited sets, the dysfunctional and utterly insecure actors.
This has been a much-anticipated comeback for the beloved Michael Keaton. Keaton was the perfect choice for the starring role in this film. Popular in the eighties and early nineties and the original (some would say only) Batman, this film reflects his own career. Rising to the top as an action superhero and then sinking back to somewhere in the middle. Contrary to popular belief, Keaton has continued to work following the success of roles such as Batman and Beetlejuice. He has done a lot of voice work and small, unmemorable films, which is surprising considering his inimitable talent.
If you’re an actor or work in the industry, you will more than likely enjoy this film more than someone who is/ does not. It is the performances rather than the plot that drives this film and they are stellar. This film feels like a perpetual stream of consciousness tainted by intense insecurities and the desire to be important. It may never achieve the importance that it so strongly craves but there is much to be taken away from this film. Edward Norton and Michael Keaton go head to head with brilliant results while Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and Andrea Riseborough support to perfection.
It is a little long and not all of the risks pay off but the journey is worth it for this highly original, ambitious and darkly humorous film.
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