Actors and their egos can create strange things, and is explored in Alejandro Ganzalez Inarritu’s latest film. The director of 21 Grams and Babel leaves the intertwining, nonlinear stories for a single narrative. But does this change in direction make for an Oscar-worthy film?
Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is an actor known for his role in the Birdman superhero movies. Days away from staring and directing in his own adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love on Broadway, Riggins starts to be tormented by the voice of Birdman. With extra grief coming from his recovering drug-addict daughter Sam (Emma Stone), critics out to destroy his play and the egos from his fellow actors, will Riggins play ever make it to opening night?
Two times Oscar-nominated Inarritu departs from his usual style with Birdman, and it may be one that could finally get him the Oscar trophy. Birdman is perhaps more straight forward than his other movies but that doesn’t mean he sits back and takes it easy. Birdman is shot in what is seemingly one continuous take, something used in movies such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, but it never distracts from the film or seems like a gimmick. Instead it gives the film a theatre like aspect as you are following the characters over the days in the lead up to opening night.
Inarritu has embedded his film with several accomplished actors who all gamely have the camera focused on their insecurities and egos. Even without the obvious winks to his Batman films Keaton is great. He is relishing every moment on-screen whether its roaming round New York City in his underwear or battling a half-naked Edward Norton as the fight over the spotlight. Just as Norton’s Mike threatens to steal the show from Riggan, Norton nearly steals the movie away from Keaton as the talented but destructive method theatre actor. His scenes with Stone are particularly good, as are Keaton’s with Stones, that show a bit more depth to their characters than they otherwise appear. Stone herself shows her character has more range than just the despondant daughter with daddy issues and a chip on her shoulder. Be interesting to see who is awarded with Oscar nominations on the night.
The film takes swipes at superhero movies (and their dominance over Hollywood), method actors, and critics alike. While it sometimes verges on being smug the film manages to balance this out with a dark sense of humour throughout. I’m also not sure about the film’s final shot, and maybe the movie should have ended a bit earlier. Perhaps that’s something to reflect on in a second viewing.
Rating 4/5 – Beautifully shot and brilliantly cast, Birdman is a great Oscar front-runner