Birdman

Birdman_poster

Birdman is the latest film by the Mexican director, Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is an aging movie actor who twenty years earlier played a superhero character named Birdman. Riggan has written, and is directing and starring in, a play based on a short story by Raymond Carver. Thomson is hoping the play will revive his career as well as his reputation. He begins to worry, however, that another cast member, Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), an egotistical method actor, will overshadow him. At the same time, he is trying to reconnect with his emotionally estranged daughter, Sam (Emma Stone). His girlfriend, Laura (Andrea Riseborough), tells him that she is pregnant. Riggan begins hearing a voice inside his head, the voice of his old Birdman character, telling him that he is wasting his time with this play.

Birdman is a black comedy and a satire of show business. As someone who used to work in the theatre, there were many things in this film that were familiar to me. Its depictions of the competitiveness of the acting profession and the petty humiliations suffered by actors all ring true. Iñárritu and cameraman Emmanuel Lubezki have contrived to make it appear that the film is almost entirely one long tracking shot. This is more than just a gimmick, for it sometimes gives one the feeling that one is almost part of what is happening.

Birdman also contains fantasy elements. I did not mind them at first, and some of them are funny, but they overwhelm the story towards the end, culminating in an ending that I found unsatisfying. Iñárritu’s previous film, Biutiful, also had fantasy elements that I found distracting from the main story. I would like Iñárritu better if he stuck to the realistic storytelling that he does best.

For all its flaws, though, Birdman deserves to be seen.

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