Birdman has been hailed as one of the best films of the year and is considered to be a fore runner at the Oscars and it’s not without reason. The film is a captivating piece of work which is depicted in the fact that throughout its runtime, the audience is bound to the screen. Now this is a characteristic which almost every great film is supposed to have but the matter in this case is special primarily owing to the content of this film. Birdman is not a superhero movie, neither is it a potent thriller. On the contrary it’s merely a period in the life of a man Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton)) who has already lived his life out and is merely passing his days as a shadow of who he used to be.
He is still known for the iconic character that he used to play and his name itself is a pull. But he is no longer in the motion picture business but is a theater man now. He is trying to reinvent his failing career by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. The play is produced by Riggan’s best friend and lawyer Jake (Zach Galifianakis), and also stars Riggan’s girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough) and first-time Broadway actress Lesley (Naomi Watts). He has to contend with a daughter who is at the threshold of discovering herself and her adulthood. She is a recovering addict and also his assistant. He also has to put up with a method actor Mike (Edward Norton) who does sell tickets but is extremely volatile.
He is able to relate with this man but he loses his head on him in the first preview of the play in which the actor upsets the whole show by throwing tantrums over gin and water. He subsequently spoils the second preview by trying to rape Lesley in the pretext of method acting. As the movie progresses we see him telling himself more and more that he deserves more than the sordid existence that he has carved up for himself. The Iconic character of the “Birdman” which is also the driving force and the word in his mind, keeps reminding him that he was the real deal and now that younger but less proficient actors like Robert Downey Jr. have taken over his mantle, the only thing that is stopping him from regaining his stature is his inability to breakout. By the time the film reaches its climax, Riggan Thomson has had a brush with a theater critic who hates Hollywood stars who try to pretend to be theater actors, walked in his underwear through the Times Square and finally shot himself with a real gun on the opening night of his play.
Birdman is a dark and satirical character study of a man who is constantly tortured by his old self and his ego. Riggan is a man who was once a Hollywood heartthrob and he is constantly troubled by his inner self to leave what he was doing presently and return to doing what he does best. He constantly keeps on jostling with himself and finally comes out with all guns blazing and delivering a knockout punch to all those whome he had to prove a point too. However his victory comes at a cost and by the time the film ends, he finally finds himself in peace with his inner demons.
This is one film which can be interpreted in varied ways. While most will love it, there will be those who will hate it immensely. Michael Keaton makes a comeback of the century. After playing forgettable characters in films like Robocop and Need for Speed, he finally bursts into his full potential with this film. This will be the role for which he will be remembered for a very long time. He plays a multi layered character with the ease of pro. It will not surprise me one bit if he wins the best actor Oscar this year for this role. He is ably supported by the rest of the cast. It will be wrong to point out any one as all the characters are given equal importance but I will do the injustice and point out Edward Norton whome I liked a tad bit more than the rest. Naomi Watts is electric and I simply loved her essay here. Zach Galifianakis is apt in his cameo.
Another unique and special trait of the film is its long and continuous takes. The camera work, which depicts most of the film as one continuous take, was met with extensive acclaim for its execution and usage. According to the film’s cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the camerawork and editing of the film were manipulated to give the appearance that most of the film is one continuous long take. The screenwriters have said that the long take approach was part of González Iñárritu’s initial idea behind the film, in spite of “huge” and “important” people warning them not to write and shoot the film in that manner. When you see the film you will understand how wonderfully this approach has served the film and its mood.
Shot in a month’s duration almost entirely at the St. James, this is a film that will excite and enthrall viewers who are bored of the regular and predictable fare. More than that it will electrify professionals in the popular arts, primarily because of its audacity to take the art form and play with it up to an extent that hasn’t been done in the recent past. The film successfully takes the art form and takes it to a place which is close to miraculous and therein lies its greatest victory. The out of the world performances and the technical finesse add to its odd world charm and also increases its mojo. Watch Birdman and be enthralled.