WRITTEN BY: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexanfer Dinelaris, Armando BoDIRECTED BY: Alejandro González Iñárritu
STARRING: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts
RATING: 4.5 stars
Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) was once the lead actor in a superhero franchise called Birdman. But now, Riggan is facing bankruptcy and has put everything he has left into a Broadway play in the hopes that it will launch his comeback. Riggan is directing and starring in an adaptation of Richard Carver's short story called What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. His best friend and manager Jake (Zach Galafianakis) is producing the play while his daughter Sam (Emma Stone), who has just come out of rehab, is his assistant. Riggan's lead actress Lesley (Naomi Watts) brings in her talented but difficult boyfriend Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) to fill out the cast. But as opening night approaches, Riggan struggles to keep the play and himself together.
Director/co-writer Alejandro González Iñárritu has a lot to say about film, art, success, mental health and popular culture. Birdman is a beautiful piece of cinema with a fascinating depiction of actors, including their eccentricities and self-indulgences. The moral of the complex story is enthralling and thought-provoking. While the film lags a little in the middle, it bounces back strongly in the final act. Be aware that the trailer is misleading and does not do the film justice.
Aside from the intriguing plot, the stylistic elements are profound. There is a very clever use of editing, which makes it seem like most of the film has been shot in one take. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has since revealed that most shots ran for about 10 to 15 minutes, but it appears seamless. Due to the tight nature of the set, it also makes the audience feel like they are in the theatre with the cast. Music and sounds are also used for maximum effect, including a repeated drum beat and having musicians playing their instruments in random places throughout the film.
The cast is brilliant, led by Keaton who has indeed made quite the comeback with this role. Norton is sublime and Watts is wonderfully dramatic. Stone is the weakest link, but perhaps only in comparison to how great everyone else is. Galafianakis is also underused.
The entire experience of watching Birdman is quirky, fun, hilarious and quite special. It should win many awards, including several Oscars.