What are you? I’m Birdman.
Seamlessly blending stage and screen drama to give Michael Keaton a career-high role, Inarritu’s innovatively-directed Birdman is a masterwork.A stunning character dissection, peppered with both insight and imagination, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) expertly delves into the mind of an ageing once-popular superhero blockbuster star who is struggling to make his Broadway acting / directing debut. As the play – and his life – collapses around him, his alter-ego persona – the Birdman character he once played – criticises and chastises him at every turn.Although director Alejandro Inarritu denies even having Michael Keaton in mind for the piece, there’s no escaping the real-life comparisons, with Keaton’s own 20+ year old celebrity superhero status overshadowing almost all of his later efforts until, perhaps, now. Indeed this is arguably to Keaton what The Wrestler was to Mickey Rourke: a harsh and brutal character study that promotes a side to the actor which many have likely never seen.
With an ensemble cast – Naomi Watts as an ageing actress with her own desperate Broadway aspirations, Emma Stone as the damaged daughter, and Edward Norton on fantastic form (again playing pretty close to home) as a maverick method actor whose supposed ‘performance’ actions have the potential to destroy the entire play even before opening night – Keaton has some great support, but it’s really his baby, allowing the actor to finally shine in a way that many would have never thought possible, and at least earn some semblance of recognition from the Academy.
In a strange way, much of this itself overshadows Inarritu’s Oscar-winning skills behind the camera, which is a shame because the acclaimed director worked some real magic to make the whole stage play / feature film trick work, basically designing the whole piece as one long take, as you follow the character through several days of pure hell. The film uses the classic Mexican story device of 'magic-realism' and never has the combination of magic and realism been so utterly seamless.
A career-high for both filmmaker Alejandro Inarritu and actor Michael Keaton, this darkly comic character-study is unmissable.
Undoubtedly one of the best films of last year, acclaimed filmmaker Alejandro Inarritu supposedly wanted a break from his trademark tragedies, but it’s hard to see this latest masterwork as being all that distanced from his usual fare. Nobody is going to complain, though, with all the acclaim that this has rightfully earned, he clearly ought to stick to what he’s good – no, great – at. So it’s no surprise really that the film won Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Cinematography – honestly, you should probably mentally add Best Actor and Best Score to that list. This is unmissable.
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