Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases
A fading actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.
Michael Keaton – Riggan Thomson (Birdman)
Zach Galifianakis – Jake
Emma Stone – Sam
Edward Norton – Mike Shiner
Naomi Watts – Lesley
Amy Ryan – Sylvia
Lindsay Duncan – Tabitha Dickinson
That is my first thought of Birdman. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu nailed it spectacularly when it came to weirdness. Bizarre characters. Sinister going’s-on. Birdman is – in a nutshell – fucked up. But an enjoyable sort of fucked up. I sat watching this movie with a frown on my face for a good 85% of it. The fact it opened with Riggan (Keaton) floating in mid-air whilst litening to an invisible person talking about how his life seems to have spiralled, was just odd. But the movie became even more odd with madcap scenarios involving theatre actors being bludegoned by stage props and a Broadway star taking a swift stroll in his underpants through Times Square. We follow Riggan Thomson, a faded Hollywood actor, as he struggles to deliver a Broadway performance. His manager Brandon has had enough of him. His daughter Sam despises him. And his ex-wife doesn’t know what to do with him. But in a matter of days the curtain goes up on an adaptation of a Raymond Carver story, starring Riggan – the only problem is, he can’t quite give a shit..
Michael Keaton pulls it out of the bag to deliver Riggan Thomson. I can’t say I’m a fan of his, but the actor is brilliant throughout. He swaggers through the set (both sets) like a force of dysfunctional nature, remaining a massive presence the entire time. He also delivers the perfect amount of comedy as well as seriousness, radiating a witty but painful atmosphere. I found myself sniggering at his bold “fuck you” style but then felt slightly saddened at his situation. The similarities to the following movies are easy to spot:
Riggan talking to a voice no one else can hear. Smashing up his entire dressing room in a way which is viewed differently by others; for example, he has the ability to float objects around the room and break them just by looking at them – but when his manager enters the room Riggan is actually picking the objects up and throwing them against the wall.
Split personality. The lead character seems to jump from positive to negative in seconds, often resulting in conflict between him and a colleague or family member. One scene sees him have a huge argument with his daughter where she lets rip, screaming at him – when she walks away, Riggan looks down at an object on a table and begins rotating it with his imaginary power.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty:
Very similar to the Ben Stiller flick, in the sense that Riggan is a heavy daydreamer.
One scene (as shown in the trailer) sees him strutting down the street when suddenly, at the click of his fingers, a car across the street bursts into flames – and a gargantuan bird beast appears on top of a building, kicking off a firey fight scene.
At one point, he is also seen standing on the edge of a very high building. He looks down, jumps.. and then soars into the sky as a bird would, flying around the buildings.
I won’t lie – Birdman is bloody weird. If any of you are into messed up movies that actually carry a message, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy this. As much as it’s twisted, it makes a point of focusing on real-life issues such as family strife and relationship breakdowns. Instead of sugar-coating these issues, the director strips them bare and holds them out to the audience in his hands to view. The theatrical baseline is a bonus, as being set mainly in a playhouse takes away the boredom of arguments in a living room or bedroom – instead, this movie delivers a refreshing set alternative. A play within a play almost.
I had no idea Lindsay Duncan was part of the cast of Birdman. So when her milky complexion made an appearance, it was quite nice. The only thing was, I just couldn’t decipher her accent.
She plays a very stern theatre critic who looms over Riggan like a dark cloud, threatening to give his play a bad review. Great enemy character to throw into Riggan’s already deteriorating life, but I spent most of the time she was on screen trying to figure out if she was British or American. Irrelevant I know, but the woman’s voice seemed to flow with no detectable accent.
Duncan is usually seen playing a Brit in movies, speaking in that with that soft voice of hers. The actress is originally from Edinburgh, and speaks with a Recieved Pronunciation accent. But in Birdman it sounded neither British or American. Bizarre. See if you can spot what I mean.
Emma Stone is very good in this movie. I don’t class myself as a fan of the bulging-eyed redhead, but boy does she bring a firey character to the screen. She plays Riggan’s daughter Sam, a recovering drug addict who now works as his assistant at the theatre. Swaggering around in a pure “don’t give a shit” fashion, the roles are reversed with father and daughter as Sam starts to reprimand Riggan for his shocking behaviour. Stone certainly shines during one scene, where her father enters a room of the theatre and confrontation takes place.
The actress delivers a brilliantly fiery performance here, as she lays into her on-screen father viciously. Beginning with gentle conversation, she steadily rises to a heated argument, before the explosion. Sam literally stands still, shouting at the top of her voice, letting all pent up aggression loose on her father. And when she’s finished, the expression on her face is fantastic – her face drops slightly at the realisation of what she just said.
I must say, Stone’s performance was faultless and bursting with energy – I never took my eyes off the screen, absorbing every second and was probably as surprised at her rant as she was! This was a great little scene, and much needed story-wise. Clearly her firey hair matches her temper. Well done, Emma.
As mentioned, much of this movie takes place in a theatre. Which adds an element of farce; scenes where the cast are rehearsing their play end up with some of them running around backstage in a strop, or being involved in awkward situations whilst on stage. Naomi Watts makes her appearance as Lesley, an actress who seems to be the sexual target of frisky actor Mike Shiner who has been brought in to replace a previous actor who Riggan caused to have a nasty accident. During an actual performance with a live audience, Mike decides to get even more frisky and tries to do away with actual acting by having sex with Lesley – live – under the bedsheet as their scene begins. This evoked a hysterical reaction from Lesley as she tries to get him off her, before the audience see what they’re not supposed to. The following scene sees her stomping down the backstage hallway angrily, as her fellow stage actress Laura coos, “that’s hot”.
It is actually quite hard for me to describe how surreal parts of this movie are, due to the way it is filmed. You literally have to watch and absorb. But the good thing about Birdman is that it flows at a nice speed. Punchy scenes with honest dialogue rule the day here, blended with surreal daydream-style sequences which I was grateful for because if the movie had been any slower, it would have grown tedious. These elements shook it up and kept me watching.
Points scored here.
Birdman is weird. Interesting. Confusing. Tedious. Dynamic. I haven’t seen a cinematic piece like this since Sightseers – a British flick in which the two lead characters performed some very messed up things and had me frowning with a “what the fuck?” expression as I exited the cinema. But saying that, Birdman is probably the first of its kind I’ve ever seen. Directed in an almost artistic style where scenes blend into each other, it pulls no punches as it throws the audience into the storyline immediately. Some scenes are shot in a way that gives the movie a slight feeling of happening in real time.
Birdman is raw and unsettling. Honest and arty. I left the cinema frowning with that “what the fuck?” expression on my face again.
But is it good enough to recommend to potential viewers?..
I have absolutely no idea.
You’re going to have to watch and decide for yourselves.