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REVIEW by Richard Rivera
Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a surprising and very imaginative film that risks much while hoping that an audience will comprehend its outrageous creativity. It dives headlong into questions like: Is theater the sole domain of Broadway stage actors while movie stars are in the purgatory of wannabe’s? Should theater critics have the right to kill a play they dislike as they play it safe and never wager anything they hold dear? and Can you be a serious actor without a Twitter or Facebook page?
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu challenges the attention span of audiences with non-stop uncut sequences in a quasi-cinéma vérité theater-like arena for the brilliant performances by Michael Keaton, Ed Norton, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts.
The film luxuriates in showing New York’s theater disctrict, Times Square, and the bowels of the theater world from an actor’s perspective as Iñárritu skillfully mines the vulnerability, immaturity, in-fighting, and egotism of actors who bare all for the momentary adoration of the public. Iñárritu is an impressive director (Babel, Biutiful) who knows how to exact great performances from these gifted actors.
Michael Keaton is Riggan Thomson, a tired and failing movie star who decades before rose to fame by playing a comic book superhero, and now wishes to prove himself on the Broadway stage with a play he has adapted. It is his first stage performance and he is risking his entire financial future on a venture he thinks is needed to vindicate his acting career. In the process of preparing for opening night he is confronted with his past failures as a husband and father.
While it is impossible to watch this film and not draw superficial similarities to Keaton's success in playing Batman in the 1990’s, we quickly become aware that this film is the perfect stage where Keaton demonstrates a mastery of his craft as an actor, from absurd comedy to sobering drama. It is clear that he refuses to be stereotyped by his superhero persona of long ago.
Birdman is a film that challenges our assumptions of what a film should be and how it should be shot—and there were times when I longed for something other than a distorting wide-angle view or a cut in the action because the sequence never stopped. The consolation prizes are the brilliant performances, an innovative drums only soundtrack by Antonio Sanchez, unorthodox cinematography and an engrossing, although manic, story.
July 15, 2015
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