Pin It
Favorite

Superhero Life 

Michael Keaton's bummed-out movie about movies delivers big-time

click to enlarge Keaton and Ed Norton face off in Birdman.
  • Keaton and Ed Norton face off in Birdman.

Michael Keaton is going to win an Oscar for Birdman.

OK, got that out of the way. Sitting down to watch this film, knowing nothing about it, I immediately got caught up in the emotions of the characters, the offbeat style of the storytelling, and the sometimes bizarre plot that saw things dipping in and out of reality and fantasy.

The movie involves acting, actors' egos, and movies versus stage plays, and it owes at least part of its emotional impact to the nasty little Raymond Carver short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

Michael Keaton plays Riggan, an actor who made his name by portraying a comic book superhero named Birdman (yeah, Keaton played Batman twice), then gave up the movie franchise, floundered around for a long while and is trying for a comeback, doing anything but the superhero character.

That comeback, he hopes, will happen via the Broadway stage, where he's adapting, directing and starring in a play based on that Carver story. The play is the only thing he has left to live for. But his daughter Sam (Emma Stone), fresh out of rehab and now working as his assistant, has lost faith in him. His male costar, Mike (Edward Norton), is trying to steal every scene, sometimes because of his insistence on drinking lots of vodka, not water, when the script calls for vodka. Emotional complications ensue when two female costars in the play (Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough) become part of the already heated goings-on.

But the complications haven't even begun. Riggan must also deal with an inner voice, one that speaks the low, growling, unforgiving sentiments of Birdman, the fictional character he used to play, and who now wants him to get off the stage and get busy resurrecting the movie franchise.

The film is brimming with brilliantly constructed long takes that move characters around onstage, coast along with them through corridors and down stairways, and float with them on the streets of New York. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros, Biutiful) and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity) add both razzle and dazzle to the proceedings, but the sparks really fly when Keaton and Norton share scenes together, often in extreme close-up, and show what great and fearless acting is all about.

This is exciting, introspective and captivating adult entertainment of the highest order. One more thing to entice or perhaps confound you: Riggan can levitate objects, including himself. ♦

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Rated R · 119 minutes · 2015
Official Site: www.birdmanthemovie.com
Director: Alejandro Iñárritu
Producer: Alejandro Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole, Christopher Woodrow, Molly Conners and Sarah Johnson
Cast: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Lindsay Duncan, Merritt Wever, Jeremy Shamos, Bill Camp, Damian Young, Michael Siberry and Clark Middleton

Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Tags:

  • Pin It

Latest in Film

  • Print (and Reprint) the Legend
  • Print (and Reprint) the Legend

    Jackie keeps repeating its intriguing ideas about turning people into icons
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Gangster's Bore
  • Gangster's Bore

    Ben Affleck directs and stars in Live by Night, but forgets to add some excitement
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Crucial Stuff
  • Crucial Stuff

    Hidden Figures rights wrongs both cinematic and historic
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
Nappy Roots

Nappy Roots @ John's Alley

Thu., Jan. 19, 9:30 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

or

More by Ed Symkus

  • Ode to <i>Joy</i>-less
  • Ode to Joy-less

    This reviewer really, really doesn't like Jennifer Lawrence
    • Dec 23, 2015
  • Winning Reboot
  • Winning Reboot

    Somehow, Arnold's return to the Terminator franchise makes for solid sci-fi
    • Jul 1, 2015
  • Dog of a Story
  • Dog of a Story

    Max wastes a promising idea on forgettable characters
    • Jun 24, 2015
  • More »

Most Commented On

Top Tags in
Music & Film

Review


Film


Music


Readers also liked…

  • Where Are the Women?
  • Where Are the Women?

    A critic's year-long deep dive into the way movies portray half of humanity
    • May 12, 2016
  • Spy vs. Spy
  • Spy vs. Spy

    The Man from U.N.C.L.E. carves out a unique space in a crowded espionage marketplace
    • Aug 12, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation