FILM REVIEW: ‘BIRDMAN’

‘Birdman’

Written by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zack Galifinakis. 

Story: A washed up actor once famous for playing a superhero has to battle family, colleagues and ego to get his career back on track.

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When is the last time you watched a movie and thought: “this is what cinematic art really is.”? It is difficult to say this, because so called ‘art films’ have such a bad rap. ‘Birdman’, too, has divided audiences and seems to be the kind of film that you are either going to love or hate. 

There are many stunning elements to ‘Birdman’. The cinematography adopts a ‘single-take’ style which is nothing short of miraculous. It creates a beautiful sense of continuitiy and creates a time frame in which the audience can process at the same pace. We are running in real time for these people – or are we? Perspectives are skewed (see Emma Stone’s face in her now famous  monologue) and abstract angles are taken to make the whole film seem theatrical. Thats right, theatrical. And isn’t that the point?

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Along with the cinematography we are treated to  a drum beat that helps us keep pace with the characters. We are supposed to be overwhelmed with the pace of the camera, the sounds, the emotions of the characters: After all, for these characters their two day ordeal is also pretty overwhelming.

Michael Keaton is the embodiment of our Birdman. His performance is as emotional as it is bizarre and an interesting review of mental illness. Oh, to live the showbiz life with all of it’s pressures! 

Keaton is overshadowed, though, by his supports, namely Edward Norton and Emma Stone. Norton is back to his ‘Fight Club’ best with a show stopper performance. There is a hint of sarcasm to the way Norton plays this part: as if he has a sense of exactly what he is saying about the hand that feeds him. His portrayal is approachable and most of all funny.

Norton is about all there is to humour in the film though, which is bizarre given that it was billed as a “Comedy or Musical” by many award associations. 

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Emma Stone is as we have never seen her, and perhaps her best performance yet. She is the epitome of the cruel, junkie world that she has come from. What is disappointing perhaps is that she doesn’t get as much screen time as her fellow leads, even though she brings what is perhaps the strongest performance. 

The really interesting thing about Birdman is the plot, which we are not going to delve too far into because we certainly don’t want to just give you a synopsis. ‘Birdman’ is a commentary on mental illness, addiction, desperation, loneliness, and fame. Birdman is not perfect: it is interesting and different and refreshing, yes, but not perfect. There are a few pacing issues and scenes that drag. If you are not prepared for what it is, also, it can take you by surprise. And, obviously, if we have preconceived notions of what a film will be and it doesn’t fulfill those then we will most likely be disappointed.

It is difficult when a film has so much hype, but try to leave your expectations at the door with Birdman, and you will be pleasantly surprised. 

Rating: 7.5/10

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