Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) explores a week in the life of a once-famous film star, Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton who plays the role with a sense of gravitas), as he tries to mount a comeback on Broadway. Haunted by his decision to walk way for the third film in a massively successful superhero franchise, in which he had the starring role, Thompson is plagued by low self-esteem and his own ego. This manifests itself in strange ways as he struggles to get his theatrical adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love off the ground.
Constantly stalked by the old persona and attempting to keep the play afloat financially, Thompson tries to navigate the numerous crises in his life. These include his troubled relationship with his recovering drug-addicted daughter Sam (Emma Stone), whom he admits to being a shitty father to; and the insecurities of his current co-star Lesley (Naomi Watts) who is starring in her first Broadway show. Adding to the chaos is the last-minute arrival of the revered, yet arrogant, theater actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), a man’s whose presence threatens Thompson since he is so beloved by critics. Tackling the world of theater and celebrity, the film highlights Thompson’s “me against the world” mentality that is prominent in his quest to regain respect and legitimacy.
Shot, for the mostly part, as one continuous shot, Iñárritu’s camera work is a sight to behold. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) maintains a sense of chaos through the way Iñárritu directs sequences such as the one where Thompson walks around Time Square in his underwear. The scene is heightened further by the dazzling cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki. Iñárritu brings elements of surrealism into the film through Thompson’s erratic mind. An example of this can be found in the sequence where Thompson is stalked by Birdman, who urges him to get back to what made him so good in the first place. Antonio Sanchez’s score, which largely consists of jazz drums, adds jaunty rhythm to the scene and the film as a whole.
Michael Keaton completely owns the film by giving a truly sensational performance as Thompson. He expertly displays all the frustration and anxiety that actors endure, especially when trying to stage a comeback. The parallel between Keaton’s real-life and his character is noticeable, especially in a great monologue that Thompson delivers regarding careers and the art of acting. The film also features some amazing supporting performances from Zach Galifianakis as Thompson’s friend/producer, Amy Ryan as Thompson’s ex-wife, and Andrea Riseborough as one of the women who complicates his love life. Emma Stone gives one of her best performances to date as Sam, and Edward Norton proves to be very funny and engaging as an egomaniacal theater actor who is full of himself.
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a sensational film that explores egos, personal crises, and the world of actors. It’s a film that is unlike anything you will see in mainstream American films. Despite its visionary approach, the film is quite accessible in its delivery of both humor and drama. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is an outstanding film that is amongst the best you will see this year.
© thevoid99 2014
Apparently the script wasn’t written with real-life parallels intended for Keaton, or even with him in mind. I find that somewhat hard to believe, but if it’s true … then wow, did they get lucky!
I hope it is true. I’m sure they had someone else in mind but if it was for Keaton, kudos to him.
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