Birdman soars high, cementing its status as one of the best films ever made.
Birdman stars Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Emma Stone, and Zach Galifianakis. The film follows aged actor Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton), who was known years ago for portraying the superhero Birdman. In present time, Riggan writes, directs, and stars in the play “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” which was based on Raymond Carver’s book. As Riggan gets things set up for the big opening night of the play, many obstacles and internal struggles arise. Firstly, Riggan has to deal with the annoying antics of a fellow actor. Secondly, he tries to block out a voice—one he only hears—out of his head. With drama piling up on top of another, will Riggan be able to deliver a successful play and achieve prestige while doing so, or will the play fail and people will only remember him as the comic-book character?
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who directed The Revenant (2015) and Babel (2006), co-wrote and directed Birdman. Inarritu enlists the help of acclaimed cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, to shoot the entire film with long takes. With this approach, Lubezki expertly shoots scenes with great visuals, making Birdman one of the most visually appealing films in 2014. The filmmakers meticulously plotted out every step and direction to ensure that the camera would move without any problems. These scenes required a lot of effort to do, especially from the actors. The actors had to remember their lines and perform the movements in these 7-8 minute takes. Normally, films will use a lot of short takes to capture the necessary footage, so the crew can move forward with the filmmaking process. But, in this film, the cast and crew went the extra mile and pulled off shooting long scenes without any continuity errors, and remembering long lines of dialogue without flubbing them. This is an amazing achievement, and it is all thanks to Inarritu and Lubezki, as well as the talented cast of actors.
The actors in this film carry the film from beginning to end. Michael Keaton, who stars as Riggan Thompson, gives one of the best performances of his career. Keaton, making the character likable, inhabits the role by capturing the self-obsessed nature of Riggan. Edward Norton stars as Mike Shiner, a talented, but hostile actor, who antagonizes people to get what he wants. Norton, who is known for playing the Incredible Hulk, does a great job of balancing Shiner’s brilliance as an actor with his explosive behavior as a sociopath. Naomi Watts, portraying Lesley as an ambitious actor who wants to make it big on Broadway, adds a lot of depth to the character of Lesley Truman. Emma Stone, as Sam Thompson and Riggan’s daughter, is great in the scenes she’s in. She steps up to the plate and knocks it out of the park. She holds her own along with the other experienced actors in the film. Zach Galifianakis plays Jake, who is Riggan’s lawyer and friend. This may be Galifianakis’ best role to date. In all the scenes he’s in, he doesn’t allow the other accomplished actors to outshine him. He puts aside his comedic chops and relies on his dramatic acting skills to get the job done.
All the actors do an amazing job of bringing life to their characters. Every character comes off as a live, breathing person. Each one of them has conflicts and struggles. When characters interact with each other, conflicts develop. For instance, Riggan frequently argues with the actor Mike Shiner. Riggan comes from acting in Hollywood movies, while Shiner gained recognition for acting in Broadway plays. From their interactions, we see how Hollywood and Broadway are juxtaposed. In the film, Hollywood represents distasteful entertainment produced only to make a quick buck, while Broadway represents creative, inspiring entertainment, created to stimulate viewers’ minds. The dichotomy of Hollywood and Broadway is used to showcase the different careers of actors. One actor may act in blockbuster movies all throughout his career, while another actor acts in plays. This interesting dichotomy presented in Birdmanprovides entertaining drama for viewers to enjoy, and to analyze after the film is over.
As a whole, Birdman is a good movie for a film buff or a regular viewer to enjoy. With the combination of marvelous cinematography, great acting performances, and enlightening social commentary, Birdman soars high and cements its status as one of the best films ever made.
Rating: 5 out of 5
1st Birdman image: www.pacejmiller.com
2nd Birdman image: screenplayexplorer.com