Interstellar and Whiplash are great films which had been tied for my 2014 favourite film until recently when I saw Birdman. I expect it to gobble up the 2014 awards, at least for best film, best director, best actor, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best screenplay and best score.
Yeah, its that good.
Its hard to do justice to the plot by summarizing since there is so much going on in every scene. However, it seems the main characters are all facing some sort of dysfunction which prevents them from moving forward with their lives.
Riggan (Micheal Keaton) is an actor who struggles with overcoming the shadow of the character that propelled him to stardom – The Birdman, a yesteryear superhero. Now wanting to assert a new identity and produce a serious Broadway play, he finds his former life undermining his ambition.
Sam (Emma Stone), Riggan’s daughter is struggling to overcome drug addiction and it doesn’t help to have her father struggling to control his own life, which has the side effect of micromanaging hers.
Mike (Edward Norton), a notoriously eccentric and ill-tempered Broadway actor, is recruited into Riggan’s play only to unravel everyone around him and put the play in danger of failing.
Alejandro González Iñárritu, outdoes himself in both writing and direction, creating what I think is his most approachable film. His previous efforts, like Biutiful, Babel and Amores Perros, were well-structured and hard-hitting dramas which I enjoyed but none had a feel-good component. This film still carries a weighty message but it is less structured and wrapped in a comedy .
Dialogue is too cleverly written to soak in on the first viewing. Its pithy, relevant, caustic, sarcastic, and pitch-black in it’s humour. Like its NYC setting, the pace is furious and it never takes the time to fully acknowledge its own brilliance. Rather, it yawns in ambivalence at its life-changing self-discovery before jetting off to the next scene. Like NYC, it won’t be for everyone.
Iñárritu also sculpts the tone of this film to create unpredictable but enjoyable waves of comedy and tension that come fluidly. However, he never loses sight that at its core, this film is a drama. A drama everyone can relate to on some level and if the viewer examines a parallel thread from their own life, it will resonate strongly.
Hey, Michael Keaton, what the hell? You do some good things in the 80’s and 90’s, disappear from view only to resurface out of nowhere 20 years later to pull this kind of acting Kung Fu. Good on you Keaton, there are comebacks and then there’s the thing you just did, which is to finally take the right role at the right time. He delivers every line, movement and expression with a surgical precision speaking to innate talent and experience.
In this role Keaton is forced to look at his own life as an actor to make his character believable. Undoubtedly some critics will label this film as a pretentious instance of art imitating life. Some may call this a parody on show business. They are neither right nor wrong since its you, the viewer, who decides. For me, Iñárritu creates his most appealing film to date which loudly entertains and quietly asks us to look at ourselves.