Birdman - oddball, dark and engaging

Emma Norris reviews Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman depicts the struggle of Riggan Thomson, an ex-iconic superhero actor (Michael Keaton) trying to launch his own Broadway play. As opening night approaches, he fights his ego in battling to save his play and his romantic, friend and family relationships. He is also desperately striving to find himself relevant in the world, as an actor long-gone from the public eye.

Riggan is confronted with his voice and visual-representations of his younger, Birdman self – mocking or reinforcing his actions throughout this stressful time. The viewer is left with many questions throughout the film. Riggan is seen to perform acts of telekinesis and levitation feats when alone. Is he really Birdman? Does he have an active imagination? Is he schizophrenic? He also evidently blurs the roles of himself in real-life and the part he is playing on-stage, with huge consequences to his health and personal relationships. Is he method-acting? Is it a ploy to gain publicity? Or is it a call for help?

The film is written, produced and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and there are some stand-out performances from Keaton, Emma Stone as his recovering drug-addict daughter and assistant and Edward Norton as his play’s star actor: taking an immersive, hilarious method-acting approach to the play. Also special in this movie is the camerawork, shot as if the film is one continuous sequence. The long, sweeping camerawork travels through the depths and layers of a New York Broadway theatre and onto the hectic city streets themselves. Off-beat jazzy drum rhythms throughout also capture the chaotic nature of Riggan’s experiences brilliantly.

Although the title and indeed the highly-edited trailer may convince you otherwise, this is not a superhero movie! This is whole-heartedly an oddball, dark, adult comedy and indeed one of the most unique and engaging films I’ve seen in a long time.

Reviewed by Emma Norris, PhD student at University College London and Associate Editor (reviews)

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