Birdman certainly ain’t your average good vs. evil, costume-wearing superhero film; it wears a bit more than the cape and underpants outside the trousers. It has special effects for sure, but no action that takes you away from the story. And an even more tongue-in-cheek approach than Iron Man, peppered with black comedy. It had a pretty decent showing, earning a reported more than $103 million from worldwide box-office sales on an $18-million budget. It also won this year’s Oscar for Best Picture. Although a blockbuster, it has some elements of what I would call an indie-mainstream arts film.
I cannot recall from my fading memory another film that has an alter-ego narrative voice and a theatre play within a film, with actors playing actors playing characters… can you, dear reader?
It is a great exploration of a man’s attempt to fly away (pun intended) from his early fame and not become washed up; a struggle a lot of artists go through. I somehow, as do several Leipglocers, also find it apt that protagonist Micheal Keaton pulled off this sometimes-nuanced piece. In his early career he was fabulously playful in Beetle Juice, and also did a great take on that other caped superhero Batman. But he has been in some stinkers, notably alongside Michael “fuckin” Caine in Quicksand and Katie Holmes in First Daughter.
So just like Tarantino did with John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, maybe Birdman director Iñárritu might just re-launch Keaton’s career with this film, or at least some of his integrity.
After all, he did not even lose some of this dwindling quality walking in naff-nasty underpants through New York. Which was incidentally done live with no extras, so all the people you see here were real New Yorkers or tourists. Either it was a masterstroke in groundswell marketing or just a haphazard happy accident of filming schedules and planning.
But then again, even his fellow actor and nemesis in the film, Edward Norton, has a scuffle with him in his undies too. The exposure in the film is not just undergarments, but the central character Riggan’s struggle with a certain kind of type-casting and discarding the wings (fame) of Birdman.
This to me was the main nuance, alongside the ego and actor clashes between Riggan and Norton’s character Mike, as well as the acerbic theatre critique Tabitha. A cameo played with a morsel of impact by the Scottish actress Lindsay Duncan. Likewise the struggles with his wilful daughter, Sam, played by the fabtastic Emma Stone. Gonna have to also segue here, if the editor and readers allow, and recommend you put The Help on your to-see film list, which is what got me on to this talented gal.
With Birdman, the story, the cinematography and the acting have deftness about them that makes the nearly 120 minutes fly by. I wanna keep this review short and sweet as the film is one that I do not want to spoil with over saturation. However. if you want to get a fresh taste of an actor who had gone sour in previous performances, then do not hesitate to pick this from the summer cinematographic menu.