Birdman or "The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance" is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor – famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself.
Birdman or "The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance" is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor – famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself. less
“Birdman is technical, cinematic, directorial and performance perfection. ”
Apart from his all-heart debut feature ‘Amores Perros’; I’ve always struggled to appreciate Inarritu’s bloated attempts at sculpting self-consciously capital-‘A’ Arty films trying to pass off as some sort of profound comment on human nature. But there’s something about ‘Birdman’ that sets it apart from his previous suffocatingly self-serious and grim white-elephants: it has a certain verve and humour that somewhat livens up the proceedings, even though the point Inarritu is making is essentially a shallow and facile one. Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson who, much like his real-life self, was the lead of a successful superhero franchise a couple of decades back but hasn’t been working much ever since. Birdman, the character from the shallow blockbuster Riggan’s famous for, still haunts him (hallucination? magic realism? Thankfully, the movie doesn’t offer an explanation) as Riggan plans to revitalize his career with a theatre adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Love”. He thinks that the movie franchise that made him famous was junk, and wants to do something “meaningful”, something that can be considered art. In keeping with the film’s playful meta-casting, we have Edward Norton, playing a committed-to-the-point-of-being-maniacal method actor, and Naomi Watts as his girlfriend and co-star in Riggan’s play; both of whom have essayed famous schizophrenics in ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Mulholland Dr.’ respectively. Inarritu pits these broad archetypes against each other and the movie is staged almost like a chamber drama, moving out of the theatre where the troupe rehearses only on a few occasions. The problem is, the drama never solidifies into anything substantial, and Inarritu instead chooses to make rote, half-baked points in sketchy, broad strokes. There’s a monologue by Riggan about how all critics do is regurgitate uninformed labels while it’s the artists who struggle and actually do something. The satire on the ignorant media and art criticism is so on-the-nose and simplistic that it sticks out like a smug attempt on Inarritu’s part to implicate you just in case you happen to dislike his movie. The single-take thing is little else but a showoff-y gimmick – the material doesn’t really demand to be shot this way and it brings little to the table. What it results in, instead, are endless, redundant shots of characters walking through large, dimly lit corridors; whose only purpose is to mask the edit cuts. There’s a nice little touch where the camera captures Norton and Emma Stone’s characters making out backstage, and in a single continuous pan that warps time, takes us to the stage where Norton is rehearsing the play. But such few bits aside, the stunt serves little purpose except calling attention to itself. The story pans several days, so when Inarritu wants to show the in-between period where no drama happens, he tilts the camera towards the sky shot-in time lapse. ‘Birdman’ isn’t a terrible movie at all, and there are some impressive individual passages; my favorite being the one where the telekinetic Riggan causes the stuff of action blockbusters – helicopters and missiles etc – to invade the framework of the “art” film he’s inside. It makes for a fun moment, but in the larger framework of the movie, does little except take cheap potshots at the generic blockbusters (several digs are taken at the Iron Man and Avengers franchises.) While those movies may be shameless cashgrabs, merely calling out others’ shortcomings doesn’t absolve ‘Birdman’ of its own ineptness. Towards the end, Riggan’s alter-ego functions as a sort of Donald Kaufman, inciting him to give up strained attempts at relevant art and go back to being who he truly is – a flamboyant movie star; but thanks to the sketchy and simplistic satire that builds up to it, this journey of self-discovery(?) is as callous as the non-art it mocks.