Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Running time: 1 hour and 59 minutes
It's time to talk about the Oscar-winning movie, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).
Have you ever thought about what happens to a very successful actor years after his time in the spotlight? Birdman is that story. It's been years since Riggan Thomson rose to fame as Birdman. It's been years since Riggan Tomson felt important. It's been years since Riggan Tomson felt like he mattered. So, years after he became famous portraying a superhero called Birdman, Riggan Tomson decides to write, direct and star in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver's short story "What we talk about when we talk about love". Will it help him find what he is looking for or will it make him feel that he doesn't matter (like the rest of us) even more?
So, let me start talking about Birdman with what seems to be the thing that stands out about the movie and the thing that everyone is talking about, the way its shot. Birdman is shot like it is one continuous take, even though the events of the movie take place upon a couple of days, if not more. Having heard beforehand about the unusual way the movie was shot and having never seen anything like it before, I was wary of whether the gimmick would work for me or not. And the short answer is that it did work, at least in my opinion. It made the movie feel very fluid and even mesmerizing at times. It was so captivating as it went along that I couldn't stop thinking about every little detail about the plot, the characters, the sets or the shot(s). Alejandro González Iñárritu caught my attention for 99% of the whole 2 hours of the movie.
And when I say it made me think about everything I, really, mean it. My brain was, constantly, on overdrive trying to find and explain the meaning behind every character's actions and reactions, spoken and unspoken words, face and body expressions... It was very refreshing to watch a movie that required effort but, also, rewarded you, in the end, for making that effort.
Part of the reason I was so entranced by Birdman (along with the shooting style) was how realistic and complex the characters were. There was layer after layer of personality and motivation created by a lifetime of experiences and backstory and that was visible on the screen.
Adding to the intricacy of the character writing and developing were the great performances of the extraordinary cast. Michael Keaton made Riggan Tomson come to life as a forgotten actor that has, obviously, some issues due to the fall of his career and is trying to prove to everyone else, but mostly himself, that he is talented in the true sense of the word and not only in the Hollywood blockbuster way. He made the character lovable, pitiful and even reprehensibly self-centered without making him a caricature. On the other hand, Edward Norton found shadings in a character that could, otherwise, be portrayed as a shallow, selfish and self-absorbed celebrity that thinks he is better than everyone else. He, instead, made Mike Shiner feel like a relatably insecure person that tries to hide his flaws and weaknesses behind his talent and acting stardom. Similarly, Emma Stone gave depth to her character that could be seen as a child-of-a-famous-actor brat that is living the high life with drugs and partying. However, Sam Thomson is, actually, a troubled young girl with some understandable father issues and a real fear of being insignificant.
Since I found the individual characters so interesting I, subsequently, found their interactions with each other even more captivating. I loved the conversations between Riggan and Sam and how she was projecting her problems onto him and how he was trying to convince himself that even though he was an absent father in the past, he had since evolved and gotten closer to his daughter, even if that wasn't really the truth. So, the fact that there weren't more scenes with them together took away from the movie for me. I would love to have seen more from them, or in the very least from her.
However, even though I, thoroughly, enjoyed the movie I had a big problem with the end of it, as I've heard other people did too ( and I won't spoil it, don't worry!). Because of how extensively I analyzed the rest of the movie combined with the fact that I think all of the magical elements of it were creations of Tomson's imagination, I can't seem to understand the meaning of the final scene (and I am referring to Michael Keaton's FINAL, absolutely last, scene). I don't understand what it was representing in Birdman's "real world" or its translation into our world. I feel like there was a very appropriate mark where they could have stopped the movie and they just kept going past it.
In conclusion, do I think Birdman deserved to win the Oscar for Best Screenplay? I can't answer that since I've only seen two of this year's nominations ( it, definitely, deserved to win over "The Imitation Game"), but I can, certainly, recommend it, especially if you are a movie-newbie (like me).
Fox Searchlight Pictures