Birdman (2014): The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

Posted: February 12, 2015 in Comedy, Drama
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Story: Having been one of the most successful superhero actors in Hollywood, Riggan is looking for legitimacy in his career. Seeing the stage as the place to gain true acting respect, he crafts an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and is inching closer and closer to the premiere. After a freak accident during rehearsal, Jake, his attorney and producer, scrambles to pull in Mike Shiner, a well known Broadway actor. Mike commands the process almost immediately, forcing Riggan to feel like he is losing control over his dream. With his sassy daughter, ex-wife, and supporting actresses adding to his stress and drama, doubt settles in whether he will make it to opening night.

Acting: The highest merit for this film is the quality of the acting. It is interesting that this film almost feels like a symbolic representation of his own career, considering that Michael Keaton (Riggan) played Batman in the early 90s and now is attempting to push his performing resume to award-winning status. In this case, he may be successful, as his inner turmoil was well expressed through his alter ego and monologue’s toward the screen. Edward Norton (Mike) has a more consistent recent following and mirrors his character’s outgoing nature. Emma Stone (Sam) has received a lot of attention for her as the daughter. She had truly rough edges and constantly battled the process of preparing the show, but she ultimately showed a more complicated sense of her character by the end. As for Naomi Watts (Lesley) and Andrea Riseborough (Laura), they truly felt like background filler. Zack Galifianakis (Jake), on the other hand, showed his ability to be entertaining as the most “normal” member of the cast, in comparison to his other roles.

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Review: As mentioned above, there was a clear parallel between Michael Keaton’s actual career and the experience of his character. While many actors have had challenges switching between the iconic roles that made them stars and opportunities to branch out into new genres and experiences, few of them have the voice of their success goading them in the background. Riggan felt trapped by his past, seeing What We Talk About When We Talk About Love as the true opportunity to be legit. The voice in his head, however, continually harassed him for his decision and worked with the chaos around him to force him to question his quest. It was unclear whether the voice (and subsequent superpowers) were real, but it certainly added to his inner struggle.

As far as the rest of the players, the play’s somewhat modest presentation pales in comparison to their complex issues. Lesley was dealing with issues of validation and concerns for loneliness. While in a complicated dilemma with Mike, she was prone to breakdowns and periods of self-doubt. Mike maintained a persona of confidence, letting his presence take over any room and any stage scene. He pushes a potential fling with Sam, whose morose attitude distances her from her father while also attracting the wrong type of attention. While the focus may be on Riggan and his validation, each of these characters were struggling through their own challenges.

The more artistic presentation of the story is both potentially overwhelming and charming, while not knowing whether his Birman persona is actually real.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

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