Spoilers will take flight when nobody’s looking.
I tend to stay away from movies with Oscar buzz. I do make an exception when I’ve seen the film before it gets hyped up, such as was the case for Parasite. But when a movie already begins its run with Oscar aspirations, I prefer to stay away. It’s unfortunate because I think I might have enjoyed watching Birdman on the big theatre, but at the same time that experience always depends on the audience you get. Fortunately the movie has aged pretty good and its subjects are all still relevant today.
Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) was directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu who wrote it with Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo. Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is an actor once famous for playing a superhero named Birdman back in the 90’s. Now he’s producing, directing and starring in a theater adaptation of Raymond Carver’s play “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”.
The play runs into several hurdles, mainly the fact that critics don’t appreciate a mainstream action-film star trying to put on a play. Riggan loses his supporting actor to an accident, but things seem to turn around when he hires theatre darling Mike Shiner (Edward Norton). Unfortunately, he’s an asshole. Riggan also has trouble communicating with his daughter from his former marriage, Sam (Emma Stone), who he has hired as his assistant.
Riggan’s biggest challenge however is his Birdman persona, who talks to him inside his head urging him to return to the action film genre. This results into magic realism in which Riggan sees scenes from movies play out and feels himself able to fly. We also see he’s become telekinetic. Whether this is all playing in his mind or just part of it is left up to us. We do see him jump from a building at some point to land in front of the theatre and walk in. Just as he does, a taxi driver follows in demanding payment for a ride we didn’t see him take.
I think more people that skipped this film should give it a chance. Besides the internal conflict of Riggan breaking free of the stereotype he seems doomed to be remembered for, there’s the whole debacle of mainstream cinema vs classic theatre. The way that the movie is shot to simulate one long take, the background music being mostly composed of percussion and the way we see things not as they are but from the biased reality of the main character are all brilliant changes that spice up the film. Even if some of them might be grating to some, it’s something worth experiencing.
Strongly recommended with reservations. I see why some people would find flaw with the way that the movie is not neutral, but I kinda love that part. Some of the perspectives and the magic realism will feel gimicki and even pretentious to audiences that would prefer things clearly explained. As much as I believe it is something worth seeing, truth is some aspects are acquired taste and might feel alien to moviegoers who prefer to see one unquestionably “real” point of view. Even when not everything is understood or clarified, I found it was still amazing to see some of the most outlandish scenes take flight.
That will do for now.