A story of inner conflict and self realization told in an ambitiously brilliant film style, with intelligent writing and near flawless performances.
An actor who has been over shadowed by his comic-book performance twenty years ago, puts all he has into writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play, that given its success could change his persona of being a washed up performer, or confirm it.
First off I can easily say this is one of the better films I have seen in a handful of years. “Birdman” was creative, ambitiously shot, extremely well acted and it is all woven along a story of self-realization, inner turmoil and a look inside the sub-culture of the film/stage business.
The cast to begin with was about as flawless as a group of actors and actresses can be. Michael Keaton easily gives the best performance of his career and as you watch you can feel he is consumed by the role, completely nailing all his emotional moments with complete dramatic impact. I loved some of Keaton’s early work, his favorite film of mine is “Clean and Sober” about a drug addict who enters rehab to hide from his crimes and not since then I have I seen him engulf himself in a role and deliver a character with such effectiveness.
Edward Norton was also excellent and felt perfect for the role of an actor who was as gifted as he was difficult to work with. Norton also easily captured the feeling of his character and the inner turmoil of a man who was only at ease on stage or in front of the camera while off of it he was a brash relatively unlikable person with nothing but fractured relationships devoid of any substance. Norton and Keaton worked so well together and you could feel them playing off one another the entire time and it did nothing but capture my full attention.
The scene where Norton’s character accepts the role in the play and arrives to go over some lines with Keaton’s character was about as perfect as you could expect. This segment of a long, uncut scene was captivating to watch as Keaton and Norton took witty, talented writing and delivered it with pin-point acting. I found myself hanging on every word as these two veterans of film worked off one another and this was only a small instance in a story filled with many compelling moments.
Naomi Watts was very good as well as Emma Roberts who both brought the film solid side-characters to fill out the story. Stone was the biggest surprise of mine, she was not extraordinary, but much better than I have seen her in other works and she brought a realistic performance of an estranged daughter to a ‘celebrity’ father. I also really loved Zach Galifianakis’ who was excellent with Keaton as well and brought some strong emotion to his role with out ever making it feel forced.
For a story being filled with so much dramatic elements is also brought more than a handful of laughs with fantastic writing. The dark humor was perfectly delivered – it was at times, right in your face, other times it was clever, others witty and subtle, but the result was always a chuckle to break the dramatic tension this script builds with its amazing screenplay. You hang on every word with dialogue that always boasts substance as well as relevance to building all the characters and their dueling sides of life and their acceptance of who they actually were.
Regardless of the skilled writing and near-perfect cast performances, the truly memorable thing about “Birdman” was the way it was shot. The long, continuous scenes all blend into what looks like a single seamless take from start to finish, and it is about as ambitious as a style move as I can remember. This idea would require great effort from the cast as well as the crew and after seeing this film you can see the effort was given by all. Some may not like the extended takes but it pulled me into the story.
As the characters converse in and around the rooms and narrow hallways of the St. James Theatre the long unedited shots made me feel like I was following them around and actually in the room. It was almost, if not more effective than 3D can could for immersing you in the story a film is telling. With the trend of over-editing, rapid short-takes and close-ups, a movie to deliver this style of filming, to a seemingly common story for the genre, only made it more eye-popping and completely able to your attention in to the minds of the characters and the settings.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu and his directory of photography Emmanuel Lubezki without question created a cinematic masterpiece. The entire film is perfectly organized, shot beautifully, and weaves a story of multiple characters that have an extreme amount of depth. It takes a look into the world of film and stage plays and the business of critiquing, as well as a mans journey to a hopeful redemption by putting all he has on the line to make the play a success. There are so many things to capture your attention in this film that it was about as fast as a two-hour film can seem.
If you have not done so, see this film, if you are at all a fan of the genre or anyone in this cast you will love it, or simply see it to watch the artistic creation in the many facets of film-making. It’s a break from the normal, and a breath of creative fresh air resulting in about as perfect as a film can get in my opinion.