By: Mark Di Stefano
Rating: 10 out of 10
Broadway & theater are two forms of entertainment that are two sides of the same coin. How they’re presented and how they affect the audience can be different, but both can be extraordinary if pushed to their limits. It’s rare to see a film that feels like a play.
Shakespeare once wrote that “All the world’s a stage.” Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is, quite literally, a grand, magnificent stage filled with some of the best performers working today.
Birdman, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel), is a film that, at its cinematic level, reaches heights that hasn’t been seen before and at the same time, on a theatre level, keeps going and going, firing on all cylinders and keeping you hooked until the very end.
Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, an actor, known for playing the superhero Birdman, decides to direct, write, produce, and star in a play on broadway. With opening night days away, Riggan deals with conflicts on stage and off with his family and cast, as well as dealing with his own fears that his legacy will just be defined by Birdman.
>With Keaton he is like his character in so many ways, with the only difference being that Keaton isn’t a tragedy story like Riggan, and thankfully so. Yes, he is known for being both Batman and Beetlejuice, and (depending on who you are) he could easily be pigeonholed to that for the rest of his life. Keaton doesn’t care though, in my opinion. He still works and is one of the best character actors around (Side note, he was the highlight of 2008’s The Other Guys).
The fact that he was Batman isn’t why he was cast as Riggan, by the way. Keaton is at his best form here. Sure there’s an understanding, but to go from that and dig into the deepest, darkest parts of yourself is something extraordinary to witness, and one of the best performances by anyone this year. The same can be said about the entire cast. Edward Norton, like his character Mike Shiner, raises the bar for everyone around him, turning a terrific performance. Emma Stone is superb, and Zach Galifianakis will turn some heads with his performance. Andrea Riseborough, Naomi Watts and Amy Ryan all round out the cast, respectfully, each with their own scene stealing moments as well.
Birdman isn’t just a movie about a broadway play, in fact, it’s more of a play than a movie. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki filmed using long takes, around 20 minutes each. Everyone had to be on point, cast and crew together, to pull off this elaborate show. Everything about the movie is brilliant. From the different color palettes used to the stark and beautiful drum score from jazz musician Antonio Sanchez, Birdman is the magnificent sum of it’s uniquely special parts.
Some people aren’t lucky enough to know the difference between admiration and love, and to see Riggan’s dark, spiraling journey to seek his own love and admiration, is truly mesmerizing. Birdman is unlike anything you have seen before.
Regardless what happens Oscar night, Birdman is a film that has to be seen.