By David Schroeder (@TheDavidabides)
By now most everyone has heard of Birdman. You know, the Oscar winning movie starring Michael Keaton as a sort-of bizzaro-world version of Michael Keaton? The one about the actor who played a super hero in the early 1990s only to be broke and struggling to make a comeback 20 years later? Yeah, that one. It’s really great.
Birdman is not a story so much as it is multiple, candid, 20 minute snapshots of a man’s life. Keaton plays Riggin, an old washed up actor using his last few dollars to stage a play on Broadway. Riggin hopes this will rejuvenate his career, one that was defined by his starring role as the (made up) super hero Birdman in the early 1990s.
Riggin is haunted by his role as Birdman. Throughout the movie Birdman talks to Riggin through an inner monologue that you’re never sure who controls these discussions. There are moments when Riggin appears to have super-hero like powers, but are these displays of ability in Riggin’s head or are they real?
Other than the final 15 minutes, the entirety of Birdman takes place in a small theatre on Broadway. This works well as Birdman is filmed in a style that blends a stage play and movie. The camera follows the actors and swirls around them to take in their faces, never cutting to a different angle, but watching like a fly on the wall creating a feeling of voyeurism. When a scene is finished, the camera spins around to find the next character, covering up the break in filming with a quick shot of a shadowy corner. This causes the movie to feel like one, continuous scene as opposed to a traditional movie. Transitions between scenes feel more akin to a theatre turning its lights off for a moment to allow the grips to switch out the props. This method of story-telling is remarkable.
Birdman has some of the best acting of the last decade. Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and Emma Stone steal the show by putting on the best performances I have seen from them. The script calls for a huge range of acting from each star and they deliver. In the course of one scene, Michael Keaton goes from furious, to desperate, to happy, to loving, to self-doubting, to optimist, and it works. The chemistry between the actors and their individual ability to embody the emotion of their characters is phenomenal and cements Birdman’s greatness.
There is one scene where Birdman pats itself on the back a little too much but otherwise it is an extraordinary film that earned every bit of its Best Film Oscar. The acting, the story, the dialogue, the characters, is all great. I know I sound like a salesman, but it’s that good. I suggested that a friend of mine purchase the movie and that, if he didn’t like it, I would pay him for it.
I still have my money.