I had been angling to see Birdman for the last couple of months and luckily, it was still in theaters when we had a chance to see it this last Sunday. It's been out for awhile, but I think that all of the award nominations that it has received gave it a boost in the theaters. Lucky for us!
PLOT - Riggan Thomas ( Michael Keaton) is an aging film star. It has been decades since his big hit movie franchise, Birdman and he has dropped into obscurity. He is a divorced alcoholic and he is trying to repair his relationship with his adult daughter, Sam ( Emma Stone), who has just gotten out of rehab and is working as Riggan's assistant. In order to stage his big comeback, Riggan has sunk a bulk of his remaining assets into a Broadway production of an adaptation of Raymond Carver's short story, What We Talk About, When We Talk About Love. Riggan has written, directed, produced and is the star of the show. He will stop at nothing to make this work, yet it seems like everything that can possibly go wrong, does. His main objective of this vanity project is to be respected as a serious actor, but he learns that they are other things more important in his life.
LIKED - I loved Birdman. It was easily one of my favorite films of the year. It's quirky and different with so many layers. I'm a huge fan of Raymond Carver, so I loved the references to him and how the play paralleled other aspects of the story. Michael Keaton is fantastic as an actor with a raging ego, yet who is trying to make everything right. However, the real scene stealer is Edward Norton as actor, Mike Shiner. Shiner's ego is even bigger than Riggans and his behavior is completely unpredictable, creating utter chaos. It was such fun to watch.
The writing is so solid in Birdman. It's filled with many humorous moments and witty dialogue, that it makes the darker aspects of the story more cutting. There are many poignant thoughts on what it means to be an artist and what it means to criticize art. I won't spoil it, but there is a fantastic plot twist at the end occurring during the opening night of the play.
I loved the style choice to make the story feel like it was done in a single shot and the extreme close-ups in many of the scenes. As a majority of the characters are actors, they always have a front and the real story is often the subtext. The close-ups and following them when they are alone, in stairwells or in their dressing room, gives a glimpse of their real selves.
The choice to have Riggan be followed by his Birdman persona and to have special powers was also quirky, but appropriate. I really wasn't too sure where it was going half of the time, although it seemed to be a way to let us in to his life of being unable to shake the character that he is most famous for playing. He's a haunted man. It seemed like all of the the supporting characters were so bold and colorful, that Riggan couldn't help by lose as he was trying to regain his star power. He can't compete with the people around him.
DISLIKED - It took me about fifteen minutes to really get into the film. It wasn't an immediate draw and I really wasn't sure if I was going to like the film. Stylistically, it's jarring at first. However, once I picked up the rhythm of the film, I was hooked.
RECOMMEND - A huge yes!!! Although, I think this is one of those films that people will either really love or really hate. It's definitely something different.