Written by Rhys Wortham
‘Birdman’ is a film which has received huge critical acclaim and cleaned up at many of the awards ceremonies leading up to the much anticipated Academy Awards. The film centers around Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a former Hollywood actor who is struggling to make a comeback into the industry again, on the back of his fame as the titular superhero character. Director Alejandro Inarritu also covers the story of multiple actors and the madness that happens behind the scenes of an upcoming Broadway play. For all the multiple themes which are embedded in the film, its central focus is undeniably the issue of identity and attention, the loss of fame and the effect it has on these odd characters and their families.
This is a beautifully shot film. It has almost no obvious cuts in the scenes and indeed, the whole film does feel like one continuous shot. The effect this had on me was a sensation that I was almost part of the cast, although this was a voyeuristic feeling, since none of the characters actually interacted with the camera. The extreme close-ups of the characters did add to a sense of ‘being in the moment’, emphasising that the audience should be paying attention to the characters rather than the background. This was a neat aspect, but the background was hideously distracting due to the insane amount of detail in just about every scene, for example in the scene where Riggan is talking to his ex-girlfriend about how they would be bad parents.
The only thing I couldn’t stand about the film, unfortunately, was the stories recurring political and social commentary. I’ve heard it all before, multiple times, so personally it came off as really boring to me. The commentary of people’s innate need to feel wanted and to belong, seems rather irrelevant, when in a dark truth none of them matter to a certain extent. If you are familiar with the concept of nihilism, you will recognise the prominence of this running throughout the film. At times the film even challenges the audience, which is completely hilarious, but it’s still the same boring argument. In both instances there is a valid and important statement to make, albeit a repetitive one.
Defined as a dark comedy, I feel the humour used was clever, but the consistency of the jokes was slightly erratic. The jokes were either utterly crass or very artistically done. The jump between the differences is pretty smooth, but very unpredictable. This is all well and good, but the crass jokes are guilty of hampering the artistic style and flow of the film. One aspect I did enjoy, is that everyone had a joke, regardless of quality, in the film. I thought this was cool since usually, in most films, you typically get one guy, or small group, being the main provider of the jokes. But not in ‘Birdman’, every character was funny at least a few times.
Inarritu and his cast and crew should be thoroughly delighted with themselves. They’ve created one hell of a film, one which covers a wide range of vast topics in a relatively short time frame. I am forced to give it a lower rating though, because of the repetitive and tired nature of the film’s central message. I can’t help but regard the film as slightly pretentious in places, but I can’t argue that it does present a lot of the philosophical topics in a different light. Even if I didn’t completely buy into it, ‘Birdman’ was put together fantastically, with clever black comedy. The dark humour is so impeccably crafted, it actually gave me a warm, cynical smile at times. Not a bad quality for a dark comedy, which one would usually expect to be more grotesque, or even mean to the point where many people become disconnected by the time the punch line arrives.
‘Birdman’ is a great thought-provoking film. If you want to find yourself asking questions about life, love, fame, and self importance long after the film, then watch this. Actually, you should probably see this at least once anyway, for the composed character development and the adept, entertaining performance by everyone involved, and I do mean EVERYONE.
DIRECTOR: ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU
STARRING: MICHAEL KEATON, ZACH GALIFINAKIS, EDWARD NORTON, EMMA STONE