Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
I think I would have enjoyed Birdman (2014) if I hadn’t seen a trailer for Whiplash (2014) with all the drumming I wouldn’t be thinking of that instead of enjoying this fascinating fast-moving film about a washed up superhero film star trying to find relevance and meaning in his life. Still that’s more down to the trailers that were shown. It’s hard to say that it didn’t hinder of only a smidgen.
Putting that aside I was lost inside this backstage world of hopes and desires. I was drawn by the cinematography that was constantly moving. seamlessly moving from scene to scene with no real cut. Each scene blends into another with only the transition. A single camera follows the cast around like a fly on the wall capturing these actors at their most vulnerable. Placing a washed up Hollywood actor at the centre with a superhero past that he just can’t shake.
Unlike Michael Keaton whose own past roles only built up his reputation in varying roles from Batman (1989) and Beetlejuice (1988) a career that has seen his own high and lows, coming back to prominence more recently, especially with this role as Riggan that has seen undefinable actor back into the limelight. I don’t think that Keaton hears the voice of his past roles haunt him at his most vulnerable moments as he prepares for his Broadway debut. Birdman a past role mirroring Batman even in the voice he takes on for his superhero alter-ego.
Also backstage are a band of actors who are getting to grips with Riggan’s play, an adaptation of a classic. At the beginning they need a new actor to step in at the last-minute, enter Mike (Edward Norton) an all or nothing method actor who is all or nothing as we see over the film, a Marlon Brando you could say needing realism on stage. Unlike his personal life and relationship with actress Lesley (Naomi Watts) who is making her own Broadway debut, there’s a lot on the line. Whilst manager Jake (Zach Galifianakis) is holding everything altogether, without him nothing would happen, everyone relies on him as he pulls his own hair out. One of Galifianakis best roles, toning down his usual comedy to fit into this dark comedy drama that can’t stand still. Whilst the other actress Laura (Andrea Riseborough) has is having a fractured relationship Riggan who is fighting his demons.
It’s all about Riggan with the other actors around the side, more so Mike and Riggan’s daughter Sam (Emma Stone) not long out of rehab. I have never seen Keaton in such a meaty role, usually being in a supporting role more recently, as if he’s taking what he can get to pay the bills. That’s not to say he’s desperate there’s a nervous exciting energy almost weird which comes alive here. We don’t know what we will get from scene to scene in Birdman, his past role has a supernatural hold over the acting who can;t seem to escape his past. A role that made him is almost killing his career. Working opposite a stage actor who he is in awe with yet cannot control. A critic who threatens to crush his dreams, the odds are stacked against him.
There are moments of disbelieve towards the end of the film that leave you guessing, wondering if we have left reality altogether. Has he given into his past, embracing it and forgetting the consequences, we leave reality to a world of fantasy where could all go. His delusions takeover, nothing makes sense, leaving the audience in a sense of sheer confusion and wonder.
A very strong film, focusing the vulnerable world of the actor, trying to make it big, to break out and start over again. Hearts and careers are on the line, which is built up in the drums in the background, the beat of the street, the pressure is made real. Something that could have been lessened at times for the sake of tension. I’ve read a few times that this film is not original, the soul of an actor laid bare, the dreaded comeback, maybe its the new superhero spin that makes it’s compelling to watch, more relevant and fresh, with all the superhero films being pumped out every year, schedules running into the next decade almost, some actors careers are secured. Whilst older actors live on past glories they cannot shake, becoming typecast, something most hate to happen. Also the fresh cinematography keeps the film moving and the pace too, moving between reality and those surreal and brave moments, to me it’s fresh.