Birdman (Or to call it by it’s other name, “the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”) was an unknown Indi-movie starring a cast of actors who, despite starring in major films, never really became the major stars they were set out to be. It is now quickly becoming the must-see movie of the year after winning countless awards and nominated for nine Oscars.
Birdman centers around Riggan Thomson, a washed up film actor who tries to regain what little fame he can by staging a live-theater performance of a Raymond Carver book in one last desperate attempt to remain relevant. The movie sets out to be a thought provoking character drama but it does not take itself too serious and allows for the hijinks that naturally will ensue when a group of misfits and outcasts set out to make a play.
There is not an actor in this movie who does not do an amazing job portraying their character. Edward Norton is an overconfident jerk, Emma Stone is the troubled (and kind of sadistic) teen, Zach Galifianakis is the calm and moderately intelligent guy. The only actor who seems to have been anything resembling typecast is Michel Keaton who plays Riggan, a character who could only be less subtly based of the actor playing him if he was called “Smichael Smeaton”. Riggan is an actor who played a superhero that was heavily inspired by a darkly colored, flying creature in the late 80’s, early 90’s and started this new golden era for comic book movies. However, he quit in 1992 when the studio stepped in to ring more money out of the property and realized too late that his career pretty much died with the superhero movie. Hint, f***ing hint!
The cinematography alone is in itself a reason to see the movie. The whole movie, from beginning to end, is made to look as if it is one long uninterrupted video. It never gets too dragged out or boring since the camera is in constant movement, finding new angels and new subplots to follow as the story progresses. There are of course cuts but you won’t notice them unless you put your heart and soul in to it. And even then you can’t be sure, this means that one shot might have lasted up to 15, 20 maybe 30 minutes, making it ironically enough, feeling like you are watching a play rather than a movie. Not to mention the camera has to manually move up and down the corridors and around the rooms for the entire movie, you will be so familiar with the theater that you can probably draw a map of the place from memory alone by the end of it.
The only negative thing about the movie might be the sound editing, since 95% of the movie takes place back stage in the halls and dressing rooms of the saint James Theater. The filmmakers have gone to great lengths giving each individual room or area a personality with unique a sound. Unfortunately, the stock sound-clips they got will start to dig its way in to the viewer’s head and distract from the plot. The best example of this is a ticking clock in Riggan’s dressing room that is so loud and distracting it almost drowns out the conversation that is taking place.
The keyword in Birdman is schizophrenic. The movie gets almost halfway through with a story about all the characters interacting with one another before deciding to turn all its attention to Riggan’s battle with his personal demon, without giving any of the dilemmas or subplots a conclusion.
The actual Birdman character haunts him and makes him believe he still has what presumably are birdman’s powers. Riggan believes he can fly, teleport and levitate things while as the voice of Birdman talks to him as a manifestation of Riggan’s self-loathing. Riggan goes through the movie as his own worst enemy as he fights to create a barrier between himself and a character he played over 20 years earlier. The story of Riggan’s emancipation is an interesting comment on actors who have lost their own face to a character, like Downy jr. and ironman or Daniel Radcliffe and Harry Potter, as well as the endless pressure celebrities go through and their dog eat dog world.
Birdman is a beautiful story about horrible people running from their past and fumbling away their second chance in life. It is tense, funny and deserving of its Oscars.
Text: Mats Høimyr – firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Fox searchlight Pictures – email@example.com