Saturday, December 6, 2014


Plot: Actor Riggan (Michael Keaton) played the superhero Birdman in Hollywood blockbusters, but to be taken seriously, he is writing, directing, and staring in a Broadway drama. As the movie begins, they are starting rehearsals. The play's plot mimick the real life conflicts in Riggan's life.

Complicating this, Riggan believes that he has superpowers like levitation and telekinesis. It is unclear whether these powers are real or mental illness. Riggan argues with a voice inside his head like a madman, but it's Birdman's voice.

The plot has many threads, and one is the on-going fight about how to stage each scene of the play, especially with replacement actor Mike (Edward Norton). Debris from the past with his ex-wife and daughter surface too. The pressure increases on Riggan until the climatic and surreal opening night. [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Birdman was a lot of fun because there are so many different levels. The characters are vivid and quirky.

Michael Keaton's Riggan is always is on the edge of breakdown. Unlike every other movie with Zach Galifianakis, Galifianakis is the sane one who calms the crazy people down, and helps them cope. Ed Norton and Naomi Watts should get supporting actor nominations -- strong, emotional performances of damaged people.

Emma Stone plays daughter Sam, and she floats around backstage. Her character is used to get the other characters to talk, but she is also tragic, fragile, and on the edge of self-destruction.

The soundtrack by Antonio Sanchez is distinctive with a lot of jazz drumming. During key scenes, the drummer appears in the scene -- in a magic-reality way.

Only see Birdman if you are OK with a fuzzy, abstract story that is both magic and real. At the end of the movie, there is a symbolic victory as well as sick person recovering, as well as Birdman flying around. People who want a logical resolution should go see Interstellar. 

Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Edward Norton

Directed by: Anejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Rating: 4 stars: There should be more movies like this. 

More: At one point Riggin is arguing with Birdman's voice in his head saying, "You are just a mental concept" --just like a contemporary pop-psychologist. The audience is unsure how real Birdman really is -- maybe he is more than a mental concept. This reminds me how people in the grip of their affliction believe the voices that they hear are real too. 

Even More: Birdman is filmed to look like one long take. I noticed this at the beginning, but lost track of that as the action progressed. Now I'd like to see it again.

There is one funny scene where Riggan get's locked outside in his bathrobe, and for a contrived reason, he has to run around the theater in his underwear past the waiting audience who is filing in. The single camera action makes the action more immediate here. (This has a symbolic level too, with Riggan bearing his soul and so on. )