“Birdman” is a filmmaking extraviganza! The technical achievement alone is startling. The Oscar award for editing is going to be a battle royal between this film and the recent “Boyhood”. The story here involves a washed up actor who tries to reignite his career by writing and directing a Broadway play based on his own life! It is an arrogant yet ambitious setup for sure.
Michael Keaton plays Riggin Thomson, a Hollywood actor who once played the superher Birdman in a trilogy of blockbuster movies. More than twenty years later Riggan is writing and directing this play which will be no easy feat. Riggan seems on the verge of insanity. He hear’s the voice of birdman in his mind and appears to have telikinetic powers when he is alone. The producer is Riggin’s best friend and lawyer Jake (Zach Galifianakis) who is stressed at all times trying to keep this production afloat.
After Riggan rigs the set to have a spot light come crashing down on his main supporting actor to get him replaced, he brings in Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), who is a legend on Broadway. Shiner comes with an edge as he is willing to do almost anything on stage. He demands high quality from the productions he is a part of.
Riggan also struggles to be a father to his daughter Sam played by Emma Stone. She is a rocovering drug addict who now works as Riggan’s assistant. She is fairly rough on him due to his abscence during her childhood.
The director is Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu who creates many extended takes that are simply electrifying. The film is definitely not one extended scene but it feels like the events keep going and going. It is a virtuosos directing performance. Inarritu brings together the performances, the fantasy elements and the drama together almost ruthlessly.
Michael Keaton gives one of his best performances and that is really saying something. I’m sure he drew some paralells from his own career after playing Batman in two films. His charater here is desperate, broke and willing to go to the extremes to be memorable and feel relevant again.
Edward Norton also gives his best performance in years as Mike Shiner. Here is a guy who will cut through the BS. He demands near perfection. At one point his character is in a scene with simulated sex. He goes overboard when he suggests that they actually go at it for the sake of realism. He also gets a little to close to Emma Stone’s character. Naomi Watts and Amy Ryan are also quite good as Riggan’s co-star and his ex-wife.
“Birdman” isn’t a movie you really watch. You experience it. Every scene seems like it is happening all around you. I can’t even really describe it very well. It is a non-stop thrill ride of emotion and drama.