Saturday, October 25, 2014

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: A+ (4 stars)
Michael Keaton as Bat…er, I mean, Birdman

            From director Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams) and starring the always entertaining Michael Keaton (Batman, Beetlejuice, Mr. Mom) comes a clever new take on the superhero movie genre, Birdman. And no, it has no relation to Hanna Barbera’s Birdman or Adult Swim’s Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law; it’s a brand new superhero with a very unique concept.
            The film is not written like any other superhero movie, it’s more of a character study on Michael Keaton’s character whose alter ego keeps haunting him, and it’s done very well. Not to mention it’s sure to get a wider audience than most superhero films, but fans of comic books might enjoy the film as well.
            Michael Keaton stars as Riggan Thomson, a former movie star who was best known as portraying a famous superhero named Birdman in a popular movie franchise. He eventually left the franchise and moved on to directing and starring in a live adaptation of Raymond Carver’s story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
            Suddenly he starts hearing a voice in his head mocking him because he is having a rough time getting his play on the right track and the voice turns out to be his superhero alter ego, Birdman who tries to convince him to leave the theater career and go back to playing the superhero.
            So Riggan must choose between working in theater or working in the movies, because he may be shifting slowly into madness.
            The film also stars Emma Stone (Superbad, Zombieland, The Amazing Spider-Man) as Riggan’s daughter, Sam Thomson, Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover trilogy, Up In The Air, Dinner for Schmucks) as his best friend and producer, Jake, Edward Norton (Fight Club, The Incredible Hulk, Moonrise Kingdom) as method actor, Mike Shiner who becomes attracted to Riggan’s daughter, Naomi Watts (King Kong, The International) as stage actress, Lesley who dreams of being on Broadway, and Lindsay Duncan (A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Under the Tuscan Sun, Alice in Wonderland) as Tabitha, a critic who despises Hollywood actors and is determined to give Riggan’s play a bad review.
            Overall, Birdman is a very clever movie and a breath of fresh air after all the Avengers, Dark Knight, and X-Men movies that are coming out all the time. It’s nice to see a superhero movie that has no comic book or television origins, and one that isn’t written like any other film in the genre.
            Sure I said something similar about Kick-Ass, but even with all the heavy realistic violence and superheroes with no powers, it still felt like a comic book movie, Birdman feels like the opposite. The film is very character driven, doesn’t focus on action, although there is a very impressive sequence in Riggan’s mind when he’s being haunted by Birdman’s voice, and the superhero only reveals himself in a couple of scenes, reminds me a lot of this other superhero movie that came out a few years ago, Griff the Invisible when I really look at it, except in that movie the superhero is shown a lot.
            The scenes where Keaton is hearing Birdman in his head are absolutely gripping and perhaps the best parts of the movie, it feels like he’s going insane in a similar way Jack Nicholson did in The Shining and when Birdman himself shows up, you have no idea whether or not he’s really there, kind of like the Faun from Pan’s Labyrinth or the ending of Inception.
            Like most of his performances, Michael Keaton’s performance is absolutely amazing, he portrays the washed up type of character very well and his over the top moments are very amusing, not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Of course when he’s Birdman I kept flashing back to when he portrayed Batman in the 1989 Tim Burton movie.
            But of course, the rest of the cast is great, Edward Norton does a wonderful job as the jerky actor, Emma Stone’s performance blew me away as the recovering drug addicted daughter, Zach Galifianakis performance as the play’s producer and Riggan’s friend was very different from his usual performances in comedies, well done, and Naomi Watts, despite not being a major focus of the film did fine as the play actress.
            So if you’re a fan of superheroes, though you don’t really have to be a fan to enjoy this movie, you’ll probably like it. But if you just want to see the film for Michael Keaton, you’re in for a treat because this might be him at his best, I can’t think of a performance quite like this one.
            If you want something different from the traditional superhero movie genre, spread your wings and fly to your local theater and check out the Birdman.


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