After a great trailer and enough awards buzz for three movies, Birdman became one of the must-see films of the Oscar season. Living up to the hype, Birdman flies into theaters with career-defining performances, excellent cinematography, and a delightful screenplay. To put it plain and simple, Birdman deserves your time and money.
Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, an actor who left the superhero role that made him a star in favor of more dramatic material. 20 years go by and he is still being recognized solely as the guy behind the mask. He decides to write and direct an adaption of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” in hopes of getting the respect he feels he deserves. Problem after problem will make this production one of the most horrific experiences of his life.
With Marvel and DC announcing 70 films at once and actors of all sorts joining these projects, Birdman came out at the right time. The four writers responsible for Birdman’s screenplay are clearly self-aware of the current state of Hollywood and they thankfully don’t go overboard with it.
Birdman may poke fun at the current superhero craze, but this is a movie about actors. Do actors get second chances? How do actors perceive critics? Method acting is beneficial on the outside but does it hurt the production on the inside? While a straight-up superhero satire would’ve worked just fine, Birdman goes above and beyond by broadening the topic. By doing so, Birdman is satisfying on multiple levels.
While the screenplay deserves quite a bit of praise for pulling off what it did, it is far from perfect. The film’s supernatural element felt unnecessary and unfitting. It thankfully never got too goofy, but it still never found its place in the film. Also, everything about the film’s ending was unsatisfying. Some may find joy in the obligatory final scene, but it’s hard to walk away happy. On top of that, many supporting characters were left hanging and didn’t get a proper conclusion to their story. The film’s screenplay is terrific, but it’s plagued with enough issues that it’s held back from the greatness it could have been.
The performances in the film are truly stellar. Michael Keaton hasn’t contributed much to cinema in recent years, but his comeback is one of the best in recent memory. Whether he’ll use this comeback remains to be seen, but it sure is great to have him back in the spotlight.
Edward Norton plays an actor who excels on camera but is a pain off-screen. What a perfect role for him! Norton feels so natural in this role, it’s actually pretty amusing and it doesn’t help the rumors that he is a piece of work behind the scenes.
Emma Stone gives her best performance as Riggan’s assistant and daughter while Zach Galifianakis excels at being dramatic while also using his comedic chops when needed. Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts, and Andrea Riseborough round out one of the best casts of the year.
Finally, Birdman is notable for one other feature. The film’s camerawork is outstanding. Director Alejandro G. Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki really outdid themselves here. Without spoiling what makes it so terrific, just know that every aspect of this film is even more impressive thanks to the way this film was shot.
Delightful, charming, and technically outstanding, Birdman is one of the films to remember from 2014. Career-defining performances and mind-numbingly incredible camerawork help the screenplay’s faults to make Birdman one of the most special movies in years.
For more on Birdman you can also see Bryan’s review here.