Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) ‘2014’

By: Mitch Burns


Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed By: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, and Amy Ryan

9 Oscar Nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Actor in a Leading role, Michael Keaton
  • Actor in a supporting role, Edward Norton
  • Actress in a Supporting role, Emma Stone
  • Best Director, Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Cinematography, Emmanuel Lubezki
  • Sound Editing
  • Sound Mixing
  • Writing, Original Screenplay

The second movie to review in my Oscar Nominee series, Birdman, a review I found challenging to write. Birdman has many layers, it’s complex. It may just seem a simple story on the service, but it says a lot more than it might suggest; It deserves several viewings.

Birdman is the story of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a down on his luck Hollywood actor, known best for his superhero ‘Birdman’. Thomson has refused to star as ‘Birdman‘ in anymore movies, turning down ‘Birdman 4‘. Riggan Thomson is hoping to reinvent himself, by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”.

Nothing is going well for Thomson, during a rehearsal, a light falls on one of his actors and he is hospitalized. Thomson, and his producer/friend Jake (Zach Galifianakis), are forced to find a new actor to replace him. One of the plays actors, Lesley (Naomi Watts), suggests hiring method actor Mike (Edward Norton). Mike is hired, for better or for worse, and it only adds to Riggan Thomson’s list of problems.

Thomson is also trying to mend his relationship with his rebel daughter Sam (Emma Stone), who is serving as Riggan’s assistant. He’s also working with his now girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough), and trying to keep a solid relationship with his ex-wife, and Sam’s mother, Sylvia (Amy Ryan).

On top of everything, Thomson is haunted by himself, as ‘Birdman’. Every move he makes, he is scrutinized by himself in the ‘Birdman’ costume, whispering in his ear and following his every move. It’s unclear as to whether it’s a hallucination, or what is going on, but it is effecting Riggan.

Birdman is a commentary on today’s Hollywood stars, superhero movies, and “reinventing” yourself as an actor. Keaton was the best person to play Riggan Thomson, probably one of the best casting decision in years. An older actor, who hasn’t been in many movies recently, and has a history of playing a superhero, the fact that he gives a stellar performance is the biggest cherry on top.

Birdman is an actors movie, Keaton, Stone and Norton give three of 2014’s best performances, Watts, Galifianakis, Riseborough and Smart only add to the ensemble. I am a sucker for great acting, and while everyone in this movie was great, it’s Emma Stone that really sticks out. Stone shows how talented she really is, it was easy to forget seeing as “The Help” was three years ago, and we’ve only had “Spider-man” movies to go off of since then.

It’s the movies themes of Ego, Ignorance and trying to feel important in today’s social media age. Riggan is forced to come to terms with himself, through the Broadway play, and trying to mend his estranged relationship with his daughter Sam. These characters will remind you of many of today’s actors, and that on top of the film’s many humorous moments will keep you smiling throughout.

Birdman is tense, never boring and moves along at a swift pace. The film is edited to look like it’s all one take, that and the jaunty score helps it bounce along like a bullet train. At times Birdman will come across as too clever, some moments are worth pondering, while others aren’t. Birdman will leave you thinking, although It’s not an easily accessible film. I worry about recommending it to people, and it (happily) shocks me to see it receiving so much awards recognition, as it’s probably the smartest movie of 2014.

Grade: A

Thanks for Reading!

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