I’m just going to come out and say it: Birdman isn’t just good, it’s glorious.
Superbly directed by Alejandro González Iñarritu, this dramedy certainly isn’t for everyone, but I found it absolutely fascinating on every level.
First, the cast – and what a cast it is. Michael Keaton is brilliant as Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor who had his 15 minutes of fame as “Birdman” back in the 90s, and is now hell-bent on staying relevant. It’s a clever and hilarious parallel to Keaton’s real-life career trajectory who effectively disappeared after playing Batman (in Tim Burton’s masterpieces). Keaton does an outstanding job with the role, marvelously bringing to life the character’s desperation and increasing paranoia as he battles his personal demons. It’s seriously career-defining work, and it proves that all the acclaim he’s received over the past few months is justified. The rest of the cast is equally first-rate: Edward Norton is cocky yet likable, Emma Stone is lovably damaged, Naomi Watts is reliably endearing, and Zach Galifianakis is shockingly good as Keaton’s manager.
But the script – the script tackles a whole spectrum of whacky ideas (Hollywood Stardom, social media, strained family dynamics, mental illness etc..) and it juggles them all with surprising ease. Without spoiling anything, I will say that Birdman’s ending is a uniquely memorable one. I’m not usually a fan of resolutions that end things on an ambiguous note (I-NEED-MY-ANSWERS), but days later, I’m still thinking about Birdman’s thought-provoking final moments. That end scene is totally up to the viewer to decipher, but any which way you crack it, it’s bound to keep you analyzing.
But what’s my favorite thing about Inarritu’s film? It’s not the cast or the script, but the camera. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki knows how to stage a shot, and he ensures you never miss a frame with long continuous takes that traverse the backstage areas of Riggan’s theatre production. As the camera trails our characters, it twists and turns alongside their twisted lives, giving you special access and turning you into a voyeur in the process. It’s engaging, masterful work and I can’t praise it enough.
Sarcastic, edgy, and yet so very human, Birdman is a thoroughly captivating experience. Truly one of the most perfect movies I’ve seen in a long, long time.