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article imageReview: ‘Birdman’ is every definition of spectacular Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 24, 2014 in Entertainment
‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’ delivers the highest standards in all categories to convey the story of a man risking it all to reinvent himself before it’s too late.
Many actors started on the stage, occasionally returning when they need a change of pace. Others go to Broadway for credibility or proof they can perform roles outside of the pigeonhole to which they've been limited. Theatre is less forgiving than film because it's live and there are no second takes if you flub anything. In Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), a washed up actor learns these lessons the hard way when trying to recover his former glory.
Riggan (Michael Keaton) was once Birdman, an iconic movie superhero that spawned sequels and substantial returns at the box office. But that was 20 years ago and now he needs to prove walking away from that character wasn't the biggest mistake of his life. Personally bank rolling the production, Riggan adapts, directs and stars in Raymond Carver's “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Overcoming his ego and family issues while staying sane is only half the battle to a successful debut. The other half is managing a notoriously difficult performer (Edward Norton) because simply putting his name on the playbill fills seats.
The director of photography had his work cut out for him in this movie. The camera is always moving, even when the actors are still. Dollies, cranes and steady cams are employed to shoot long takes that follow characters from one location to another. There are very few obvious cuts, demonstrating an accomplishment by everyone involved. When the action is still, the camera circles the actors or pans back and forth as they speak to each other. When the camera finally does become stationary, it's a perceptible variation on the norm.
Writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu composes numerous parallels within the film to the stage. The fact that the camera is always present keeps the performers consistently in front of the audience, delivering pages of dialogue without pause much as they would in a play. The seamlessness of these scenes is likely owed in some part to skilful editing, but a feat nonetheless. In addition, the non-diegetic music is characteristic of theatre with drums indicating an increased pace or more erratic behaviour.
Michael Keaton and Edward Norton star in ‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’
Michael Keaton and Edward Norton star in ‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’
Fox Searchlight
The meta elements of the film extend to its characters. Norton portrays a method actor who is a spoiled, self-centred jerk who doesn’t take anyone else’s needs into account — not an unheard of description in the acting community. When his girlfriend and co-star (Naomi Watts) laments her choice in men, she cries, “Why don’t I have any self-respect?” “Because you’re an actress, honey,” is the tongue-in-cheek response.
The picture also takes some shots at arts critics and journalists throughout. A roundtable interview is comprised of three of the worst types of interviewees: the highbrow, pretentious type, someone who wants a response to the most ridiculous gossip, and a person who doesn’t speak the language and takes things out of context. Later a frustrated Riggan asks, “"What has to happen in a person's life for them to become a critic?"
Though most of the film is grounded in realistic circumstances — when seeking a replacement for the show, Riggan even enquires about the availability of Woody Harrelson, Michael Fassbender and Jeremy Renner only to be informed they are all attached to major franchises — there’s also a fantastical element to it. Riggan believes he may have real super powers that he exercises to various degrees throughout the movie. Or he’s slowly losing his grip on reality.
Needless to say the performances are outstanding. In recent years, Keaton is embracing less conventional roles that require him to be villainous, eccentric or both. While the latter is the central quality of this character, he still manages it magnificently. Likewise, Norton takes up the challenge and unequivocally delivers. Emma Stone portrays Riggan’s recovering addict daughter, providing one of the most scathing and memorable monologues in the film. Zach Galifianakis takes a rare pause from his typically goofy personalities to play Riggan’s lawyer, best friend and overall voice of reason.
Everything comes together in perfect harmony to produce an exceptional picture that must be seen to be fully appreciated.
Director: /Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis and Edward Norton
More about Review, birdman, Michael Keaton, edward norton, emma stone
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