Birdman = 8 ½
In a word: Bizarre.
But bizarre in a good way. It’s hustle-bustle enough to hold your attention from scene to scene, but not so bizarre that it strays from the central, captivating storyline. This movie is not mainstream Hollywood. It’s about actors playing actors who play actors – on Broadway, that is.
I was never a big Michael Keaton fan, but I must hand it to him, this is the role of his career for which I have no doubts he will receive his first Oscar nomination. Keaton plays a down-and-out actor/director in a side-street theater off Broadway when he lands another top actor (Edward Norton) who is as nuts as he is, to play a lead role in a developing play, one in which Keaton’s character must succeed or his life on Broadway will be over.
As sad as the characters are in their struggles for acceptance and adoration, the audience will be captured by the depth of the plot, and the talent of actors at their best. Add two female powerhouses, Naomi Watts and Emma Stone, one (Watts) playing a first-time Broadway actress, the other (Stone) the young daughter of Michael Keaton’s character. Emma Stone may also get a supporting nomination for her intense, yet sensitive portrayal of a daughter forever yearning for love and acceptance from her father. She is one of those characters from whom you can’t tear your eyes away.
While foul language is heard throughout the movie, it never seems to be gratuitous nor implausible. The words fit the story and the characters. And, though there are some suggested sexual scenes, the movie is not fixated about sex, nor violence. It’s about human struggle, fear of failure and ego.
Birdman is not a comedy, by any stretch, yet you will find yourself bursting out in laughter at some of the lines. One scene is uproarious when, toward the end of the movie, Keaton finds himself in a publicly precarious situation. He is a multi-dimensional actor, indeed.
My primary criticism of the movie would of Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s penchant for overplaying the paranormal beyond the scope of logic and reality. Keaton’s character, besides being an obsessed actor, is possessed with certain abilities that go above and beyond the plausibility scale. Other viewers may feel different, but I felt it was unneeded in the story.
The picture moves quickly as we follow the actors through the labyrinth of backstage hallways and the raunchy lifestyles of some of the backstory characters, too numerous to name here.
If the movie was to be rated based on acting performances alone, this would be a solid 10. But a few imperfections get in the way, so I give it a 8 ½.
Roger Ebert called it a “blast from start to finish” giving it 5 for 5.