Sometimes a film has a large scope and just isn’t able to fill it. Whether it is the visual ambitions or just from a technical standpoint, a director’s goals just sometimes don’t pan out on screen. “Birdman” is absolutely not one of those films.
“Birdman” stars Michael Keaton as a washed up actor who is known for formally portraying a superhero in movies (kind of ironic). To try and remain relevant and prove he is capable of being a true actor, he mounts a Broadway play while at the same time battling his family, his costars and himself. Edward Norton and Emma Stone costar and Alejandro González Iñárritu writes and directs.
“Birdman” does something I’ve never seen before: it shoots the entire film as if it is one continuous take, with each scene seemingly transitioning to the next with no edits. While obviously the entire movie was not shot in 120 straight minutes, each scene seems to be one take. This is not only is impressive from a filmmaking standpoint, but also becomes mind-blowing when you think of the pressure that put on the actors to not screw up; and is even more amazing when you see the results.
Michael Keaton and Edward Norton give two of 2014’s best performances, if not two of the better acting jobs in recent years. Keaton plays a man trying to remain relevant well past his prime, but “mocks Twitter and won’t even get a Facebook page” as his daughter (Stone) says. He has moments of dark humor, the entire film does, but it is the scenes that show him fighting his inner demon (in the form of the voice of a man in a bird costume) that are the best.
Norton may be even better playing a Broadway actor who thinks his he is God’s gift to the stage, and when someone does something to ruin his techniques, he voices his distaste, even if it’s in the middle of a live performance. There is one scene between Norton and Stone (who is fantastic in her own right) that is just insanely fun and pretty damn well-executed, and if Norton gets the Oscar nomination that he deserves then that scene will likely be used as his submission tape.
As near-perfect as the acting in “Birdman” is, the messages it sends are just as good. One is all about the differences between actors and celebrities, and how many actors have traded in genuine craft for capes, and judge their career on weekend box office totals. Another underlying message is that critics are just those who failed at the craft themselves; like they say, those who can’t do, teach (ouch).
The score of the film is also amazing, and it seemed that on numerous occasions it was the transition between scenes with its drums and symbols.
“Birdman” is nearly perfectly executed on near all fronts. The acting and score are phenomenal, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s direction and screenplay are infectious, and the continuous shot gimmick is anything but (next movie I see the edits and different angles are going to be painfully glaring). The third’s final act gets a little out there, and the ending in particular is a bit ambiguous, but these don’t ruin the film. Much like Keaton hearing the voice of Birdman, I can’t get Norton and Keaton out of my head, and I’m sure this won’t be the last that I, or you, hear about their performances for a long time.
Critics Rating: 9/10