“Birdman” starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts has won and been nominated for many awards already. From Cinematographer of the Year (Lubezki) to Best Future Film Festival Digital Award, the film has created such a buzz among Hollywood as well as the independent film circle that it might help boost a rather disappointing cinematic year.
Riggan (Keaton) is a former superhero movie star, but after turning down the fourth sequel of his beloved “Birdman,” Riggan is floundering. (Is there a similarity to real life here?) Switching gears and attempting to regain respect not only in the public’s eye, but perhaps his own as well, Riggan has written and will direct and star in his upcoming Broadway play. Actor’s egos, including his own, critics, and family difficulties all play a major role in the success or failure of not only this production but life itself.
“Birdman” is one of the most creatively unique films I have seen in years. From the moment the film begins, there is the question of whether or not you are seeing something real or imagined. This questioning continually jabs at you throughout the film, allowing you to come up with your own conclusions. Before we talk about the brilliant performances, and they are, let me first highlight the cinematography technique. Amazingly, there appears to be only one take throughout most of the film. The camera seamlessly and flawlessly follows the characters throughout the catacombs of the St. James theater allowing the viewer to be that fly on the wall. We are privy to everyone’s interactions, emotions, conversations, and feelings. It truly gives you the sense that you are there and following with your own eyes, all that is to unfold.
The characters are extraordinary in their reality as well as their excessive personality traits. With Mike’s (Norton’s) overblown ego and exaggerated feelings of self importance, we see what makes him tick. The intensity of his character and interactions make him impeccably unpredictable as well as entertaining. Lesley’s (Watts) insecurities and longing to be of just moderate success, make you pity her as she is constantly taken for granted and walked upon. Her character is a perfectly opposing character to Mike.
Emma Stone, the usual happy go lucky, optimistic girl-next-door is quite the polar opposite in Birdman. She is Riggin’s hard-core, dower, and unforgiving daughter, Sam. Her baggage is exceptionally weighty given her young age. And her rebellious and angry nature set the tone for her difficult and misguided relationship with her father as well as any others who dare to get to know her. Stone’s performance is disturbingly stellar. Her range of abilities is most definitely punctuated in this film. Saving the best for last is Michael Keaton in the lead role of Riggin. He is truly superb. He captures the essence of a struggling man who has had a taste of success. He battles the demons within as he also attempts to figure out who he needs to battle outside of himself. The constant tug of war between these two aspects keeps the audience on edge, but also constantly guessing as to what is truly happening. This complex and difficult role gives Keaton a chance to perform to his maximum potential and shine brilliantly.
“Birdman” is a unique film about a Broadway play and its distinctive cast of characters. It’s also a look inside a man’s head and his relationship with those closest to him. The psychology and interpersonal interactions are intense with the ability to allow each character to peak as they help develop the story. The writing, acting, and cinematography are a delicate and deliberate balance, never tipping too much in any one direction, giving you a fluid, coherent, and rich story. The cast is the icing on the cake as each of these talented actors perform in ways never before, making it refreshingly entertaining. The story is so unusual that the viewer just doesn’t know what is going to happen next. Again, another refreshing aspect of this film.
“Birdman” is an unparalleled production sure to entertain with its storyline and acting. The film is sure to continue to grow in its buzz until Oscar time when it’ll sound more like a harmonic cacophony of accolades. If you love performance theater, you are going to love this film. Norton and Keaton fans are in for a spectacular experience and for those fans of Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis, you’re in for an amazing surprise.