SYNOPSIS: BIRDMAN or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) – famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself.
I think there’s an interesting argument that this flick, presents. It’s an argument about acting versus celebrity, about fame versus art, about truth in performance versus lies in life. However, in my humble opinion, the argument would probably be better served in some sorta essay or print media. In fact this flick feels like it was adapted from an essay, in that it’s a movie where characters walk around declaring who they are, what they represent and what the movie is about. It’s as if the group of writers on the movie (Alejandro González Iñárritu [Babel, 2006], Nicolás Giacobone Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo) decided that they didn’t have time to write a movie, so they wrote a script about putting together a stage play (Actors playing the part of stage actors – how annoying!?!). Consequently, the final product clearly shows that this writing collaboration is an absolute failure in it of its own. So much so that it is very much an overdone confusing piece of art.
Michael Keaton (Need for Speed, 2014) does a reasonable job as the main character, Riggan Thomson, performing on his own work as “Birdman.” However, he’s not great, and as the central performer in a movie where everybody’s going on and on about performance and truth he never gives a completely honest moment; This, despite the constant bombardment of up close facial expression shots, showing every wrinkle and sunspot on the aging actor’s leathery-skin. Fellow ex-superhero Edward Norton (The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014) fares a little better, playing a heightened version of him-self, though he’s always behind a thin cover of phoniness. On the other hand, the actor giving the best performance in this movie and would stand up to the movie’s own standards of acting is Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, 2014); her eyes so big I sometimes wondered if they had been CGI augmented. Stone is raw and alive on screen, infusing a painful and youthfully awkward character with true life need for immediacy of attention (the junkie daughter of the washed up movie star).
Here’s the problem with the writing in this flick: It’s not entirely clear how serious the movie is being with these performances. The film is, on many levels, a dark satire of the arts, and it’s the kind of satire where it’s never quite clear if things are meant to be weird or mal-adjusted or simply off. To that end, if in fact one is an avid fan of works done by Woody Allen or 2010’s Black Swan then this is definitely right up that alley, but if one is hoping to find fun, interesting and modern storytelling, then this is certainly not the movie to look toward. It has too much of a Shakespearian element to be considered interesting, too little character development on the supporting characters and an absolutely awful excuse for a movie score (of which is borderline down right annoying). Two and a half stars out of five is probably my way of giving the movie some credit for effort toward art. However, having said this, I would not rush out to theaters to see this flick unless I had an elderly “performance-arts” grandmother who would probably appreciate what the movie is trying to achieve in that arena.
By Movi-Man Stan
MOVIE REVIEWS >>>