BIRDMAN Movie Review
With narcissistic fury, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is Alejandro González Iñárritu’s declaration of war against post modernism and cynicism in modern culture and he’s fighting fire with fire. Broadway’s St. James Theatre is the chosen battlefield where actors, critics, directors and journalists are all fair game in Iñárritu’s crosshairs and he’s not much interested in subtlety or restraint. Emmanuel Lubezki’s magnificent cinematography creates the illusion of a long, continuous take, as the voyeuristic perspective is dropped right in the middle of the chaotic production and the atmosphere never loosens it’s grip. The jazzy drum score assaults the senses and raises the tension as every character is a beat away from breaking their sanity under the pressure.
Every character is a vessel for Iñárritu’s esoteric social commentary and the acting is outstanding all around. Riggan Thomson is a selfish and angry character that needs to be empathetic for this film to work and Michael Keaton brings out all of the harsh truths in Riggan. Washed-up and struggling to be relevant in the middle of an existential/nervous breakdown, Keaton completely loses himself in this character and gives one of his career best performances. Equally impressive is Edward Norton’s Mike Shiner who’s method acting on stage is heightened and commanding, while his purpose is shattered when he exits the curtain. Emma Stone takes a character that is conceptually thin on the page and adds dimension and charm, making her performance a standout in the film. She achieves so much from staying grounded and is blessed with the gift of telling the equivalent of a hundred words by merely using her eyes.
There’s many moments within Birdman that reflect the filmmaker’s own self-awareness towards making it and things get quite bizarre when Iñárritu is actually unleashing criticism on himself and one he’s actually doing in that very moment. When Norton’s character is criticizing the repetitive script of the stage production, Birdman is then shifting from dark satire to self-referential mind explosion. Birdman is a beautiful film with terrific performances and plenty of attitude and creativity to spare. If Iñárritu would have displayed a little bit of restraint and not felt compelled to make his characters so literal on the page, it could have left a greater emotional impact instead of a hollow feeling that cynical people are certainly familiar with.