By Peter Towe

Published on Friday, October 24, 2014


Director Alejandro González Iñárritu has showed that he can maintain strong storytelling abilities throughout his fantastically dramatic series of prior movies.  His previous works Amores perros, 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful were all soul crushingly heartbreaking that they all still resonant with me.  Iñárritu brings his uniquely distinguishable sensibilities into a comedy, or at least a film that teeters on the line between drama and comedy.  With his new film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)Iñárritu channels much of his anger, insecurities, and resentment of not only the Hollywood system, but as a man coming to terms with his own self worth and importance in an ever changing society that in the end, gives zero shits about you.

Front and center of this existential crisis is actor Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a washed up actor who formerly played the iconic superhero Birdman. Thomson is at a breaking point in his life, as he’s fading into cultural irrelevance he attempts to resurrect his career and his own self worth by writing, directing, and staring in a Broadway adaption of a Raymond Carver short story.  Thomson puts all of his money into this production to prove to himself, but mostly the critics and naysayers that he’s more than just some hack actor fading into oblivion, but a true artist.  He wants to show the New York theater crowd that he’s just as talented and important as they are.  As the play and Riggan’s life begin to fall apart we tavel with he and the people around him as he attempts to keep everything together, and hold onto the power he once had.


Riggan Thomson is a man who puts all his self worth through what other people think of him, but not the people closest to him.  His daughter Sam (Emma Stone), fresh out of rehab, is hanging around the theater as Riggan preps for opening night.  Riggan is so wrapped up in his own head and desire to be seen in a broader light, has blinded him to the pitfalls of everyone around him.  This take on perception and how we view ourselves directly correlates with the problems we all face today.  People who post immediately to Facebook to share their “story” to all their followers, while forgetting that the people around them are the ones who actually care.  At the same time, the film balances this critic with an opposition that makes sense and shows that technology (or the ability to remain “up to the times”) is needed in this day-and-age.

Stepping brilliantly into the role of washed-up former superhero Riggan Tomson is former superhero icon Michael Keaton.  Keaton has tons of great work under his belt, but sometimes the stars align and the right pieces of the puzzle fit together and you get the perfect fit.  Keaton was born to play this role, and it’s hard to imagine another actor taking on this world.  Keaton has lived it himself, albeit with more success post bat-suit.  In Riggan’s case, he is much more bitter about the current state of superhero movies and the attention and money it’s bringing to people he feels aren’t half as talented as he is.  The Superheroization of Hollywood is mentioned and mocked throughout, and I’m sure director Alejandro González Iñárritu wasn’t the only one on set with a bad superhero taste in their mouths.  I’m sure Edward Norton had a few thoughts on what he sees happening in today’s Blockbuster-filled Hollywood.


Besides the subtle yet in-your-face social commentary and wonderful performances, lies a movie that is shot like none other before.  Birdman is shot in a way to make it look like their are no cuts, no edits, and is one continuous shot.  This theater-like approach makes for a visually dazzling film that will be studied in the years to come.  The only thing that I can really compare it to is Hitchcock’s Rope, but the similarities don’t extent beyond the hiding of the cuts.  In Birdman, this technique is used to move from one characters perspective to the next in a seamless flowing fashion.  We’re behind the scenes of a stage play, while free-flowing camera techniques make the film seem stage like and nature, and bring us closer into the minds of the characters.  Riggan’s losing it, but he’s not the only one.  The camera goes from day-to-day, person-to-person all without blinking.

I could honestly talk about this movie for much longer, but I figure it’s better just to see the film for yourself.  Birdman is dark, insightful, funny, and beautiful, all while remaining true to the directors vision.  Alejandro González Iñárritu may be receiving an Oscar come February, and Michael Keaton will no doubt get a nomination as awards season approaches.  But forget all the accolades this movie will undoubtedly receive, and go see the movie for yourself.  I can fully recommend Birdman to anyone who asks “What’s a good movie to see”.  It’s try;y unlike anything that’s come before it, and as a guy who watches dozens of movies a month, is incredibly refreshing.  Birdman has sat in my head for the past week and won’t go-away.  It will leave you thinking, and depending on who you are and what you do, you will derive your own meaning out of this crazy perfectly executed movie.

Birdman is directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and stars Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward NortonAndrea Riseborough, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, and Amy Ryan.


The Good

+ Michael Keaton in the role of a lifetime

+ The "no-cut" look is incredible

+ Thoughtful, sad, and hilarious all at once


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