A surreal hallucinogenic riff on mid-life crisis, lost youth and a desperate attempt to regain relevance in an ever trending world, Birdman swoops in like a vulture picking away at the carcass of past glories with alternately hilarious and dazzling results.
The film takes place entirely in and around a famous old New York Broadway theater during the crazy maddening days of rehearsals and previews leading up to opening night. Much like Black Swan (2010) or The Dresser (1983), Birdman is one of those revealing backstage theater films that tackles the chaos and insecurities of a group of performers nervously preparing and trying to get their act together before the big night.
A young recovering addict asks an older character in the film “what would you want to do to me if you weren’t afraid?” The answer: “I would pluck out your eyeballs and put them in my head so I could see the world again the way I did when I was your age.”
Michael Keaton is perfectly cast here, as he was himself well-known for playing the legendary caped crusader Batman in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), another iconic superhero with a cult fan base, and bares all to give a riveting performance.
Alejandro González Iñárritu, who is known for making films with multiple interweaving storylines and filming in the most authentic immersive locations, skillfully transporting us with vivid and inspiring cinematography in films like Amores Perros (2000), 21 Grams (2003) and Babel (2006), has once again achieved an amazing technical and emotional feat with Birdman.
The camera moves organically around people and rooms following multiple stories as if invisibly eavesdropping on them while the soundtrack keeps a continuous rolling, clashing rhythm of offbeat jazz drum riffs skillfully improvised and integrated into the natural flow of the film by solo drummer Antonio Sanchez.