Birdman… wow… what a rare treat it is to have a film that is simplistic in its complexities that is also shot in an innovative way. The story revolves around Riggan (Michael Keaton) who is putting everything he has left into a theater piece which leads to the mental deterioration of our protagonist in an attempt to make himself relevant in an ever changing world of irrelevancy. It is an interesting topic as I imagine it hits home to a lot of aging actors from yesteryear. The change from relevant and known to irrelevant in a world largely governed by social networking where there is a clear bypass of those in the printed media who ‘earn the right’ to have a final say (the biggest nod to this is bitter Times critic Lindsey Duncan) is a journey most traveled but perhaps few understand. While this isn’t the only theme of the film (emotional reconciliation, false pride, emotional shortcomings also feature heavily) it is the one for me that is most unique.
Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki had the challenging job of shooting this narrative that basically made it seem like it was one flowing seamless documentary style shot of the characters, and it was effective. Having the flowing camera up front and closely proximate to the actors definitely added a deeper and personal feel to the dialogue. I have read that theaters are generally dark hard to light areas, which makes Lubezki’s work even more impressive as the shots definitely give you an insight into how theater performers at that level have to experience life behind a show. Given that Lubezki was the Oscar winning cinematographer for Gravity it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was well on his way for another one.
Parodies can be fun, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film where its two highest billed actors are portraying parodies of themselves…to the power of 10. Michael Keaton’s character a clear nod to life after his 80’s Batman role and Ed Norton playing a holier than thou ‘I’m a true artist who doesn’t care what critics say because I’ve never given a bad performance’ actor who wants creative control as soon as on board. Given that Norton has been accused of this on more than one occasion throughout his career I think it is a testament to not only their appreciation of the self-aware satire involved, but their good sense of humor and faith in director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s direction. There’s not much scene stealing that goes on mainly because all the actors do such a good job. Whether it’s Keaton’s daughter (Emma Stone) fresh from rehab coming to the realisation that her focused disappointment towards her father may have been misplaced, co-star Lesley’s (Naomi Watts) struggle with the cognitive dissonance felt by finally fulfilling her dreams, or girlfriend (Andrea Risenborough) having to deal with the emotional distance being put between her & Riggan after finding out she’s pregnant, all are incredibly engaging and do not require big set pieces to deliver the complexities of each character.
I think the director made this film to not only tell this story but to let the audience take away a different experience from it. For me there was a bit of a mixed message that didn’t sit well with me towards the end, but then again there are those who completely embrace their suspension of disbelief of the story and felt the end was appropriate.
This is a very individual and unique portrayal of an untold story that is acted superbly by all and is pretty compelling given its insular nature of the set up. Shot & scored well, definitely worth seeing for the experience alone.