Birdman: Past the Spectacle (Review)

To put it bluntly, Birdman is one of the best movies to come out in recent years.  On the surface it appears to be about a struggling actor, Riggan Thomson, who is way past his prime.  In a last ditch effort to prove he’s more than the action-star that the early half of his career showed, he tries to write, direct, and star in his own play.  The play is an adaptation of a short story by Raymond Carver, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”  But quite frankly it’s more than that; it’s a story about a man trying to find his place in a world defined by spectacle.  A man trying to show that he’s more than just a culture reference, that he’s full of intent and truth and heart.

Throughout the film, Michael Keaton, who plays Riggan, gives what I consider to be the performance of his career.  He really gets across the desperation of Riggan.  This is Riggan’s last chance to prove that he’s more than a superhero he played years ago.  He wants to show people that he’s a “real” actor and that he has something worthwhile to say.  Keaton shows us a washed up actor struggling to stay relevant, but he also shows us a man trying to prove that he’s worth something.  The only other actor in the film that possibly came close to outperforming Keaton would be Edward Norton.

Norton comes in early on as a replacement actor in Riggan’s play.  The scenes between Norton and Keaton are some of the best in the film.  Both actors are at the top of their game here and provide some fantastic back and forth.  But this isn’t to say that all the other actors and actresses were lacking; everyone given a part in the film really brought their A-game.

Besides the fantastic acting, the cinematography of the film is absolutely stunning.  The director seamlessly blends scene after scene, making it appear as one continuous shot throughout the entire film.  It’s quite the experience and a little hard to put into words.  Personally it made the film flow very well as I felt there were no dragging points.  Each scene transitioned right into the next without any pause in between.

In the end, Birdman proves to be a masterpiece.  Alejandro Inarritu has created something wonderful here; a movie that works on so many different levels.  I’ve discussed the film with several other people and each of us walked away with different ideas about what it was actually about.  It’s rare to find a film with such ambiguity in today’s world, and Birdman fills that empty void.  From the acting to the cinematography and editing, Birdman is a movie that will be loved for generations to come.


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