Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifinakis
Birdman is a black comedy about a former Hollywood movie star who made his name playing the superhero in a series of big budget films. In an attempt to revive his career, Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) is mounting a Broadway show in which he stars, writes and directs.
The film takes place in the days leading up to opening night. As the story unfolds, we begin to learn more about Riggan’s state of mind through his imagined telekinesis episodes, constant torment from the voice of Birdman, and the other characters perceptions of him. His daughter Sam (Emma Stone) gives a particularly angry monologue detailing exactly how irrelevant and self centered she finds him to be. He has hired her as his assistant in an attempt to rebuild their relationship, but suffice to say things aren’t going well.
Michael Keaton is fantastic and brings so much sincerity to the role, the interesting subtext being that he is a former superhero actor himself. He leads an amazing supporting cast including Edward Norton who plays Mike Shiner, a seasoned but volatile theatre actor that Riggan takes a shine to immediately, only to find himself butting heads with him over his methods. Riggan then spirals into a state of insecurity when he thinks that Shiner is stealing publicity that should be his.
Zach Galifianakis is great as the producer, who does his best to hold the show together while Riggan begins to fall apart. Naomi Watts also stars as one of the actresses in the show, Lesley, who happens to be dating Mike Shiner. She finds herself on the receiving end of one of Mike’s more shocking method acting moments during a preview performance of the play.
The cinematography in this film is spectacular, with much of it being made to look like one long continuous take. As the actors weave in and out of the shot, it almost begins to feel like a theatre performance within itself. González Iñárritu makes full use of the theatre and surrounding streets in which the bulk of the film is set. This makes you feel as though you are there with the actors pacing the stage or pushing along with the crowd in the moment when Keaton’s character finds himself charging along a busy New York street in his underwear.
Antonio Sanchez has created an extremely original and wild soundtrack for Birdman, consisting almost entirely of jazz percussion. It’s sparse in the right moments, building to an atmosphere that is so frenetic and crazed you start to feel quite scattered and on edge yourself.
Without giving too much away, the ending will definitely leave you thinking long after you leave the movie theatre. This film is a stand out and provides the perfect antidote to those not in the mood for yet another Hollywood blockbuster.