When I first heard of Birdman (rated R) I thought it was a great vehicle for Michael Keaton. It seemed to reflect his own life of a great actor who was mostly remembered for playing a superhero. When I saw that it was co-written and directed by Alejandra González Iñárritu, I thought it didn’t sound like his type of movie at all. It seemed more like a comedy and Iñárritu’s films tend to be heavy. Super heavy. Remember Biutiful? Yeah. Heavy. I remember seeing a behind-the-scenes picture of Birdman. Michael Keaton was standing on the street in a trench coat with a man dressed in a superhero bird costume standing behind him. It looked… well, kinda silly. That just goes to show you can’t judge a movie based on it’s behind-the-scenes photo because Birdman isn’t silly. It’s a well acted, well crafted film that is sure to see some nominations come awards time.
Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, an actor mostly known for playing a superhero called Birdman in the 90’s. Now he’s adapated a Raymond Carver story in to a Broadway play that he is starring in as well as directing. He’s hoping to revitalize his career but more importantly he’s hoping to prove to himself (and to the world) that he’s still got it, that he’s still a talent and important in show business. After losing one of his actors in an accident, he hires Mike (Edward Norton) to fill the role. Mike is a very talented actor who is also a bit crazy and makes life a living hell for Riggan. Not to mention his daughter (Emma Stone) who is his personal assistant and feeling less and less important herself by the day. Things are tough for Riggan.
Alejandra González Iñárritu with the help of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have crafted a film that plays out all in one shot. The cuts are there but they are hard to spot. In fact, I found myself trying to catch them as the movie played, which is perhaps one drawback from it. It’s a very interesting choice to have the whole movie play out over one long take and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Iñárritu get some acknowledgement for it come award time. It’s not the first film I’ve seen pull this trick off. A couple of years ago a horror/thriller film called Silent House, starring Elizabeth Olsen, did the same thing. And 2002’s Russian Ark apparently does it as well (I’ve yet to see that one, though). Birdman just might be the biggest movie to attempt it.
Michael Keaton is the real reason to see Birdman. His performance is one of the best he’s had in years. Where has he really been the past few years? He hasn’t had the leading man roles he once had and hopefully this movie brings him back to that level. I’d love to see Keaton earn a Best Actor Oscar nomination for this film. He certainly deserves it.
I give Birdman an A-