Birdman, subtitled ”The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, is a complex and depressing take of Alejandro González Iñárritu on the current scenario of world cinema involving precarious themes like conscience, alter egos, popularity and prestige in the life of an artist. The movie starts with a still camera angle shot of Riggan Thomson, perhaps having a brutal conversation with his conscience (Birdman to be precise) and through this very first scene we are made aware of the current situation of the agony of a faded superstar who once played a commercially successful, everybody’s favorite superhero called ‘BIRDMAN’. Now, he’s trapped in a shithole, as called by his inner voice, where he has to deal with his drug addict, rebellious daughter, a Broadway play that’s going nowhere and the people around him who underestimate his artistic talent.
Birdman, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, is one of those movies that demand to be felt rather than just seen and that too with your eyes wide open while you’re at it. The movie conveys it’s emotions and messages through subtle metaphors and hints throughout it’s two-hour runtime. The life of Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton, is shown more like his continuous struggle to prove himself as an artist while keeping things at balance with his daughter, and in his mind he’s failing miserably at both of them. Michael Keaton plays the character with such authenticity and as perfectly described in the movie, with a brilliant sense of super-realism. The movie works on thin lines between reality and fantasy of Riggan Thomson and the separation between the two is so finely embedded that at times you may find yourself entangled in the intricate web of delusions of Riggan Thomson.
The audacity of the movie is evident from the fact that it casts Michael Keaton in the lead, who ironically played Batman in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and just like the protagonist of the movie, decided not to reprise his role in the third and fourth installments of the superhero franchise. Michael Keaton with his intensity and brilliant acting skills brings the required depth to Riggan Thomson and takes the role to a whole new level. When he talks in despair to a critic in a bar, the desperation on his face speaks volumes and his performance can be called as one of the best of his career, and certainly the best of 2014. Michael-Keaton-and-Edward-Norton-in-BirdmanMJEdward Norton as Mike Shiner shines throughout his screen time in the movie. He, with his unwavering philosophies, acts like a mirror for the main protagonist and complements the overall theme of the film with dialogues like ”Popularity is a slutty little cousin of prestige.” He talks in metaphors like comparing Sam to a candle burning on both ends, which kind of resembles the way how Alejandro González Iñárritu decided to tell you this convoluted tale of Riggan Thomson. Emma Stone as Sam, a rebellious drug addict, is the personal struggle for the main protagonist and she does a satisfactory job with whatever she had at hand.
Birdman, for sure, is a metaphorically artistic gem. It depends mostly on how you watch it as it’s totally open to interpretations. It continuously mocks at the superhero genre, and the most funny part of all this is the stars who are doing it have themselves been a part of the superhero ventures (Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk and Emma Stone in Amazing Spiderman).
The movie should be watched for its spectacular acting performances and for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s artistic yet complex story-telling. Having said that, I hope you do like some ”talky, depressing, philosophical bullshit” and not just ‘‘blood and action.”