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After a full weekend of sold out shows, I was finally able to see the new movie, Birdman, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu (21 Grams, Babel, Amores Perros) and starring Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galiafinakis, Amy Ryan, and Andrea Riseborough. I originally had no intention of writing up a review about this movie. It is so surreal and brilliant and meta and I wanted to keep it all to myself. After a full day of thinking about it, I wanted to share it and not be so selfish!
Michael Keaton brilliantly plays Riggan, a washed-up actor only known for his portrayal of a superhero called “Birdman” in a slew of very successful movies. Riggan has sunk his life savings into writing and directing and producing his adaptation of Raymond Carver’s story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” He just wants to be taken seriously but will anyone let him be anything other than Birdman? Riggan has to sink even more money into this project when he needs to recast the main actor and goes with Mike Shiner (Ed Norton), a difficult but brilliant actor. Riggan is teetering just on the edge of sanity and by the time opening night arrives, he has become completely unraveled. Almost the entire movie takes place inside the St. James Theater on Broadway and that location became an additional character in the movie.
This movie is technically brilliant. Inarittu set this movie up to look like one continuous shot from the first shot to the last. The camera brilliantly moves along with the action and the characters and becomes an amazingly beautiful dance, shot by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity). It feels so natural and fluid that you don’t even really notice it is happening until it is over. Lubezki is some kind of magician trying to disguise his trick and then pretend it never happened! The actors in this move are so brilliant that it is hard not to be completely engrossed in their movements and actions. Emma Stone is particularly amazing in a small but important roll as Riggan’s fresh out of rehab daughter now working for him. He knows he was a bad father but it is obvious he loves his daughter and his ex (Amy Ryan). Zach Galifianakis is amazing as Riggan’s best friend and business partner. He brings a lot of levity to the movie and I found myself wanting him back as soon as he left the scene. Every single part in this movie feels like it was perfectly cast, including the small part played by Lindsey Duncan, a bitter theater reviewer hell bent on destroying Riggan’s play just because she thinks he is a celebrity rather than an actor.
Some of the topics covered in this movie are heavy and deep. This movie is unusual and surreal. This is a perfect movie that ties all the elements together and leaves you feeling amazing and capable of doing anything. It feels like a big, ambitious, and important movie. Birdman is currently in limited released but based on the success it has had this weekend, I expect that it will be coming to a theater near you soon. Do not let this one pass you by. Side note, I have my money on a battle to the end for Best Oscar between Michael Keaton and Bill Murray (St. Vincent).