Birdman (2014)

By on February 17, 2015
Birdman (2014)

Run time: 119 min
Rating: 8.1
Genres: Comedy | Drama
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Writers: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone
Stars: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton
Trivia: A washed up actor, who once played an iconic superhero, battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself in the days leading up to the opening of a Broadway play.
Storyline
Actor Riggan Thomson is most famous for his movie role from over twenty years ago of the comic book superhero Birdman in the blockbuster movie of the same name and its two equally popular sequels. His association with the role took over his life, where Birdman is more renowned than “Riggan Thomson” the actor. Now past middle age, Riggan is trying to establish himself as a true artist by writing, directing, starring in and co-producing with his best friend Jake what is his Broadway debut, an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. He is staking his name, what little artistic reputation that comes with that name and his life savings on the project, and as such will do anything needed to make the play a success. As he and Jake go through the process of the previews toward opening night, Riggan runs into several issues: needing to find a replacement for the integral supporting male role the night before the first preview; hiring the talented … Written by Huggo
Plot Keywords: actor, broadway, critic, ego, erection
Details:
Country: USA, Canada
Release Date: 14 November 2014 (USA)
Box Office
Budget: $22,000,000 (estimated)
Opening Weekend: $424,397 (USA) (17 October 2014)
Gross: $35,135,202 (USA) (6 February 2015)

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4 Comments

  1. oldmanlogan

    February 17, 2015 at 7:24 am

    I left feeling that I had wasted two hours of my life, and I'm not the type who watches pop features like Rocky XVII. I enjoy the art house genre that this clearly belongs to. I don't know if this is a spoiler alert or not, but if you're waiting for the moment when the loose ends are all tied together in any coherent manner, you will be waiting in vain. That said, Michael Keaton and the cast give wonderful if sometimes overacted performances. You can see why critics like it – it's not the pap that they are forced to view day in and day out because it's their job to watch it. Professional critics, for their own sanity, grasp at any opportunity to promote something different or unusual. But just because it's good for them doesn't make it good for us, the casual movie goer. Since this is a play within a movie that is set in a theater, I got the feeling that there are inside jokes that those in or familiar with the business (such as critics) will get but which is over the heads the audience.

  2. darthunderoos

    February 17, 2015 at 7:24 am

    'Birdman' is the latest overpraised and over-hyped 'art' film by the acclaimed director Alejandro González Iñárritu. Michael Keaton, who was known for playing Batman in the late 80s and early 90s, is cast here as Riggan Thomson, a washed-up Hollywood actor, once famous for playing a superhero Birdman character in the movies, now making a comeback on Broadway, acting in an adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story.

    The entire film is shot as if it's one long take in a cinema verité style. Perhaps the best thing about the film is the behind-the-scenes peek at the technical aspects of a Broadway theater production. Initially, the narrative takes the form of a black comedy in which we're asked to laugh at the denizens of the theatrical world, all of whom are depicted as deeply flawed.

    Riggan's big fault is he's deeply ashamed of 'selling out' years earlier when he took on his superhero role and now by attempting to mount a 'serious' Broadway play, he has a chance to redeem himself. But his Birdman persona keeps appearing in the form of a disembodied voice (and later hallucinations), telling him that he will fail. The idea that there are those performers who believe that 'art' is anathema to commercial success in the performing arts, is mocked incessantly throughout the film, but we get the joke early on, and eventually it becomes tiresome.

    When the lead actor in the play is mysteriously knocked out by a falling stage light, Riggan is desperate to find a replacement since previews are about to begin. At first the well known 'method' actor, Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), appears to be a godsend that will save the show; but soon it becomes apparent that Mike is exceptionally unstable. We're supposed to laugh at a character who gets drunk during his first rehearsal and later attempts to rape one of the female actors while they're on stage, lying on a bed, under the covers, before an audience who misinterprets the scene as comic.

    Later, in a bar, Mike puts Riggan down further by pointing out that the napkin that was given to Riggan and signed by Raymond Carver, was given to him in a bar while he, Carver, was drunk. Mike tells Riggan that he's too untalented for Broadway and introduces him to Tabitha, the vicious Times critic, who later tells Riggan that she'll never give him a good review because anyone who sells out to Hollywood can never do anything good in the 'legitimate' theater. The negative Times critic is just another example of the exaggerated caricatures sprinkled throughout the film, which simply aren't funny (a more realistic portrait of theater people should highlight both their positive and negative attributes!).

    Also in the mix is Riggan's daughter, Sam (Emma Stone), who has just been released from rehab for drug abuse. Riggan receives a double dose of humiliation when he first is locked out of the theater in his underwear and is forced to perform before the audience au naturel and later when we discover the slimy Mike, has had sex with his daughter.

    By the time we experience the 'twist' of a 'happy ending' at the denouement, there's nothing left for the audience to laugh at, since Mr. Iñárritu has smugly shot down all of his straw men caricatures. Riggan 'triumphs' first when he blows off his nose with a gun loaded with live ammunition and Tabitha then gives him a favorable review, dubbing the performance an exercise in 'ultra-realism'. His new prosthetic nose appears to resemble Birdman's, and Iñárritu has Riggan fly away, now self-actualized, having had a Broadway hit.

    The whole idea that commercial success and 'art' is mutually exclusive is not borne out by reality. Even Riggan acknowledges that actors like Robert Downey Jr., can be successful in both worlds. So basically 'Birdman' becomes a silly, 'one-joke' idea, not based on reality nor worth hammering down our throats, ad infinitum.

  3. nolanjackson

    February 17, 2015 at 7:24 am

    A bunch of very good actors, all wasted in an indulgent pretentious script, and even more indulgent and pretentious directing. the pseudo arts use of a drum soundtrack, the long boring hand held tracking shot, oh look i am doing all this in one take. the absolutely stupid plot, that takes ages to go nowhere, a film where the film maker is saying very loudly and in a very boring way, look how clever i am, why this has been praised by critics is beyond me. Actually to be honest i have now long given up on what critics say and write about a film. Virtually critic on both sides of the Atlantic seem to have lost any sense of what is good or bad. The amount of critically endorsed films that i have thought to be not bad but very bad seems to be growing each year. i have been a serious movie goer for some time now. i also have noticed that after a year or so these lauded films seem to get reconsidered , where the original praise is vastly reduced.

  4. mikeyweston

    February 17, 2015 at 7:24 am

    I think we've all been exceptionally good this year because Christmas came early with Alejandro González Iñárritu's masterful "Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)," an experience that you won't soon forget. Debuting at Venice and Telluride Film Festivals, the film closed an already impeccable New York Film Festival on Saturday morning for press and industry colleagues. It's a film that resonates profoundly, and may just be the best film of 2014. From its pristine writing (by Iñárritu, Armando Bo, Nicolas Giacobone, and Alexander Dinelaris), to its carefully constructed direction and cinematography, to its genius casting and performances, "Birdman" is just a dream of a movie.

    The movie tells the story of Riggan (Michael Keaton), a washed up actor who used to play a superhero icon called Birdman. In a valiant attempt to reclaim his career, he adapts, directs, and stars in a Broadway play. With problems from one of his very method actors (Edward Norton), assistant daughter (Emma Stone), emotional co-star (Naomi Watts), overly sexual girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough), flamboyant producer (Zach Galifanakis), and loving ex- wife (Amy Ryan), Riggan prepares for the breaking point of his career.

    "Birdman" is so damn enjoyable and one of the most entertaining films in years. It charms not just because of its story, but because of the performances and slick way that co-writer/director Iñárritu plays with tone. It's downright hilarious in parts, probably the funniest film of the year, and then there's the dramatic edge that comes into play, and simply breaks your heart. Above all, Iñárritu's "Birdman" is a celebration of cinema. It's an audacious achievement that floors just about every aspect of film witnessed in 2014. Iñárritu already had vocal admirers from "Amores Perros," "Babel," and "Biutiful," but this is his most accessible. This will move him up in the ranks with the Scorsese's, Spielberg's, and Eastwood's. He familiarizes us with the stage and the theater. He makes the surroundings a very palpable character for us to know and enjoy.

    At 63, Michael Keaton has been criminally underutilized in his career, despite some iconic performances. The nerd crowd will worship him as the ideal Bruce Wayne/Batman combo, while the same thick will remember his "Beetle Juice" fondly for all-time. Where Keaton was passed over was for his dramatic capabilities. I've beat the horse dead on mentioning his cancer-stricken father-to-be performance in "My Life" or his recovering alcoholic player in "Clean and Sober." In "Birdman," Keaton marries the two with an undeniable sensibility that stands as the actor's finest to date. It's such a studied turn, you feel the accuracy and precision in which he executes every move and mannerism of Riggan. It's the role that Keaton has been waiting decades for. It's the role of his career.

    If we're talking about underutilized actors, then Edward Norton needs to be mentioned. Two brilliant performances under his belt, both Oscar-nominated ("Primal Fear" and "American History X") but both passed over for someone else, Norton is back and better than ever. A scene-stealing standout, Norton makes us realize how unspoken dialogue between characters can be just as humorous without the punchline. Emma Stone has finally arrived with "Birdman." Criminally misused and passed over by Hollywood for "bigger name" actresses, Stone finally shows the world what they've been missing. In one single scene, Stone revolutionizes and captures the essence of "Birdman" with a ferocity that you couldn't see from any other performer. She finds the heart and soul of Sam, laying her on the screen meticulously and transparent.

    Though brief in screen time, the vivacious Naomi Watts, the sexy Andrea Riseborough, and the seasoned Amy Ryan make their marks exquisitely. Watts gets the most chuckles out of the ladies while Ryan has the greatest arc for us to explore. I hope and pray that Zach Galifianakis continues down a path in independent cinema. Fully realized and delivered, he layers the film with a beautiful sympathy, vocal and restrained, he finds the meaning of Riggan and presents him to us.

    Emmanuel Lubezki. That is a sentence, statement, and just pure cinematic meaning nowadays. You can't watch a movie shot by the Academy Award winning Cinematographer and not find yourself more intimately contained and available to the realm of the movies. Just one year after stunning us with "Gravity," Lubezki allows the audience to be in the movie. We are present in every scene, every movement, and every thought that a person is having. We feel as though Riggan and the cast are interacting with us. When they're laughing, we're laughing, when they're crying, we're crying. He is an absolute magician.

    This seems to be the year of the drums because Antonio Sanchez composes "Birdman" with a drum score that lays deep in my ear canals. Tapping your feet and bobbing your head, Sanchez elevates the film to new heights. Editors Douglas Prise and Stephen Mirrione may be the unsung heroes because in the film, we are nearly in one continuous take, which hardly ever gives up (at least to the untrained eye). In no way do I call myself someone who can spot a digital edit, but I spotted no more than a dozen cuts throughout. That is amazing. I'm sure there were dozens more, but you couldn't catch them.

    "Birdman" is a masterpiece (there goes THAT word). At a time where movies feel like they have to choose to between comedy and tragedy, Iñárritu's beauty works on us from the inside-out. It's a human story, comedy, thriller, mystery, all rolled into one. All told by a master filmmaker and storytellers. The year's must-see experience.

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