Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Writters: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo,
Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, Edward Norton, Merritt Wever, Andrea Riseborough,
Drum score: Antonio Sanchez, Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki
Birdman, or the return of a forgotten superhero, is a play within in a film that wants to have fun with its audience. And succeeds. It is an actors’ film about acting and film. It is about reality and the struggle to create something that is real in a world full virtual interaction.
The film plays with clichés of Hollywood stars and superheroes, acting and actors, growing up, relationships, and lessons in life, but never becomes a cliché in itself.
We meet Riggan (Michael Keaton) in a Broadway theatre in New York, floating in his dressing room dressed only in his underpants. A voice, Birdman, sets the scene: “This place smells like balls.” Riggan is haunted by the character of Birdman, who stares at him from the “Birdman 3″ film poster across the room, penetrating his thoughts, always cynical and full of doubt that Riggan will not succeed in his attempt to do something “that means something”. Birdman would rather that Riggan return to the “Birdman” movie franchise, which would delight his fans and make him a load of cash.
Riggan has decided to adapt a Raymond Carver play, which he directs and stars in, alongside his girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough) to prove to himself and the world that he is a serious actor. His daughter Sam (Emma Stone) grudgingly works as Riggan’s personal assistant, only showing interest in the world around her when she meets the newest cast member, Mike (Edward Norton), a charming “real theatre” actor and cast member Lesley’s (Naomi Watts) tenuous boyfriend. Mike seems to sabotage Riggan’s work at every turn with his obsession for truth on stage, infuriating everyone around him and creating chaos everywhere he turns.
Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography and Antonio Sanchez’ drum score guide us through this wonderful mess, as the audience looks over the shoulder of the characters, following them through the narrow stairwells and hallways of the theatre, watching the on-screen and on-stage action through the actors’ eyes. The frenetic music, for most of the film only provided by drums, creates an atmosphere of emergency that is Riggan’s panic: will he be able to create something “that means something”?
As the players in the film and in the play within the film, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”, philosophize about life, love, and meaningful action, the audience gets swept along for a thrilling ride. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and his team of writers swing wildly between drama and comedy, with touches of slapstick and dark humour that descend into quiet moments of reflection and depression. But Iñárritu maintaints clarity throughout the film, he entertains us, amuses us, and gives us something to think about beyond the screen.