Birdman (2015) Review
Where have you been Michael Keaton? The last thing I saw him in was Need for Speed and then all of a sudden he’s in Birdman giving the best performance of his career. Birdman tells the story of Riggan Thomson, a washed up, mentally unstable movie star who used to be famous for a string of superhero films where he played the titular Birdman. In a last ditch attempt to become relevant again he puts on a Broadway play where everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
First things first let’s get this out of the way early on; Birdman is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. The film is brilliantly constructed to appear as one long shot, the score is expertly interwoven into the narrative, not just tacked on as an afterthought, and the multitude of actors in it have never been this good. Alejandro González Iñárritu directs the film masterfully, with everything being brilliant from the cinematography to the lighting to the set design. There really is no flaws in his direction and proves him to be a director at the top of his game. The supporting actors in it are wonderful, Ed Norton in particular. He knowingly mocks the public perception of him as an uptight, slightly crazy method actor and he’s absolutely brilliant. Another, slightly surprising performance is Zach Galifianakis as Riggan Thomson’s manager. He brings the funny as you’d expect but he’s also surprisingly good in the more dramatic scenes, managing to hold his own against the likes of Keaton and Norton.
But of course,the real standout in the film is Michael Keaton as the slightly unhinged lead character, Riggan Thomson. Keaton is better than he’s ever been, managing to be hilarious one moment and gut wrenchingly emotional the next, and definitely as outstanding as any critically lauded, multiple academy award winning actors. It might be too early to say but Keaton’s got by vote for the best actor Oscar this year. Bringing elements of Keaton’s own career as Batman into the film creates something even more hilarious, and there are some great jokes at the expense of the superhero movie phenomenon. But by making it meta, and having the character seem disturbingly real it makes his performance that much more poignant and emotional.
The films jokes at he expense of the current superhero fad might date the film slightly in years to come but they’re still hilarious (poor Jeremy Renner). The film also feels extremely relevant at time such as this when the movie world is being oversaturated with what feels like a new superhero film or a sequel every week. The script is great and manages to balance the light and dark scenes, which is good because the film has plenty of both. The long takes don’t distract from the film at all and the film is all together wonderfully directed. The actors also have to be commended for hitting all their marks in time for each shot, and all of the costume changes that must have been required too.
The Bottom Line: Birdman is a brilliant, outstanding film and the perfect antidote for both superhero films and traditional, stuffy art house fare. It’s one of the best and most innovative films I’ve seen in a long while. Funny, moving and a just a little sad, Birdman will make you want to give Michael Keating a big hug when it’s over. And perhaps an Oscar too.