Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) was a star—no, a superstar—the scowling face of a superhero film franchise that audiences and studio suits loved equally once upon a time (albeit for very different reasons). He was at the top of his game—indeed, on the top of the world.

But fame is a double-edged thing, and both edges can be sharp. Even 22 years after last donning the supersuit, Riggan still cannot seem to convince anyone he is capable of doing anything more than flex his muscles and growl his lines.

That is when he gets an idea, one he hopes will make people see him with fresh eyes. He will put on a show—but not just any show. He will mount a New York stage adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Not only will he star, but he will direct the thing and even pen the adaptation himself. And then, if everything goes according to plan, people will finally see him as more than a washed-up, tights-wearing has-been.

If everything goes according to plan. Which it won’t.

Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance from director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Biutiful, Babel)  is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor—famous for portraying an iconic superhero—as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself.

“Based on a sharp script co-written by Inarritu—and featuring a top-shelf cast highlighted by Michael Keaton in the lead role and Edward Norton as his loose-cannon antagonist/foil—Birdman is a movie that can be enjoyed equally for its entertaining peek at backstage life or for its poignant portrait of the fragility of an on-the-brink artist. In the process, Birdman offers sly, biting commentary on America’s celebrity-obsessed culture. It eviscerates Hollywood’s commoditization of big-screen brainlessness as well as the moviegoing masses who are all too happy to settle for it.” (Mike Scott, The Times-Picayune)

“This is a remarkable feat, not only of cinematography, but of choreography. Just to film Michael Keaton and Edward Norton walking down a Manhattan street, everything had to be timed as in a dance—when the camera swirls ahead, when it goes behind, when it swoops back around. It’s all accomplished so smoothly that it would be worth doing merely as a stunt, except this is no stunt. This method carries the mood and soul of one of the best movies of 2014.” (Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle)

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