Film Review: “Birdman” (2014)

An actor (Michael Keaton) Unknownfamous for playing comic book caricature super hero’s from the past has fallen on hard times and decides to use his past connections to put forth a serious play on Broadway, proving that he’s not just a washed up hack. He opts to write, direct, and star in a show at the St. James in New York City based on the Raymond Carver story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”.

Keaton is thrown into a spiral of self-doubt and angst – second-guessing his own talent, personal relationships, career choices, and wondering whether audiences ever be willing to validate him again? The Birdman is a shadowy figure from Thomson’s past that haunts him as a voice to his self-loathing. A shoulder devil, a gripping source of temptation and self-destruction when the actor is vulnerable.

This film is technically listed as a “black comedy” but there is no comedic value I can see to it. It’s an exceptionally murky exploration of many things most people would prefer not to know about much less deal with. An artsy analysis of imperfect people struggling to navigate a cruel and feckless world, and there it pretty much stays for two hours.

Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu is noted for wringing unexpected performances out of his actors. He figured out Keaton has a lot of talent and so devised a self-contained entrapment for him to bring it out. Iñárritu created a time line within a single building, put Keaton at the beginning of it and allowed him to proceed along that timeline, interacting with other actors only as they dropped in to stimulate his creative process. What’s yielded is a series of Soliloquys as Keaton rolls along the rails. Each Soliloquy prompted by an interaction with a different actor.

There is no discernable plot of any substance just one heart-wrenching dilemma after another. The filmed is really billed as Michael Keaton on his way to an Oscar nod for surprising critics with an unexpected flash of brilliance. Maybe, but I doubt it. Audiences have been prompted to expect brilliance, and there are flashes of it, but mostly it’s depressing, gloomy and somber. If there are any Oscar hints, it will definitely be Ed Norton for Supporting Actor.

As far as Oscar nods for Best Actor go, from what I’m hearing and from what I’ve seen so far, Eddie Redmayne has a serious lock on it for Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”.

I thought Birdman was interesting but tedious, wearisome and not particularly entertaining after the first 30 minutes. Unless you like observing agonizing self doubt, you could easily wait till it comes to HBO and see it free.

I give it 3 of 5 off-camera wing flaps.


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