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.”

That pretty much sums up the idea behind the story of a middle aged actor who once achieved fame for playing an iconic super hero, Birdman. He now struggles with his past to reinvent himself as a serious actor in a Broadway play which he wrote and directed.

In a desperate bid to shed his alter ego, Riggan Thomas (Michael Keaton) who is haunted by the voice in his head which sounds a lot like Batman, tries to launch a Broadway stage play to gain a more prestigious legacy as a serious thespian. Riggan, who seems to be out of touch with the new age of social media, wants desperately to be relevant again, to leave a lasting legacy he can be proud of the only way he knows how. 

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

Iñárritu, who just turned 51, and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who won an Oscar for Gravity (2013), shot this film in what appears to be one continuous unedited take, a la Russian Ark (2002). But far from feeling gimmicky it works wonderfully. Even while time passes as we follow the various characters through their experiences, at no time does the camera stop moving or cut from one moment to another. We hover and glide through hallways and doorways as we turn and follow from one character to the next without any noticeable edits. Only a few subtle transitions are apparent near the end.

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.

This highly entertaining film is more than just a fascinating feat of inventive filmmaking; it also makes poignant comments on the subtle and not so subtle ways that we refuse to be marginalized, even as we slowly lose touch with and stop relating with the ever changing world around us.



Shiran said...

Nice review. looking forward to seeing this film.

William Rusho said...

Good review. I like these reviews, because some of these movies, I would of never thought of seeing. Thanks

jacquie said...

Thanks for this review... I have been pondering whether to see this, but you made up my mind for me. I'm going..... thanks:)