I knew from the trailer that Birdman was going to be something special, something different and by god it is.
This is the story of a man famous for portraying a superhero (Birdman) who tries to break the mould and produce, direct and star in a broadway play to prove he isn’t washed up. Along the way we meet his assistant and also his daughter Emma Stone and Naomi Watts one of the actors in his play who brings in Edward Norton’s character, a brilliant parody of his own reputation for being difficult to work with.
Right from the start Birdman establishes that this is not your average film. It opens on Michael Keaton’s character meditating in his dressing room and he’s levitating. This is an indication of the surreal and unusual aspects that really tickled me throughout the film.
Is this art imitating life? It’s easily to draw the parallels between this story and Keaton’s own struggles with shaking off the Batman label and the same goes for Edward Norton’s character, clearly a wink and a nudge performance but the film is so much more than just clever casting. Emma Stone and Edward Norton are captivating in their roles, Stone as the emotionally fragile daughter and Norton as the arrogant thespian extraordinaire.
The film is a series of tracking shots as we follow each character walk around the vast winding tunnels of a theatre. Film Crit Hulk has written about tracking shots in far better detail than I could ever hope to, you should read it: Film Crit Hulk Smash: Hulk vs. Tracking Shots. Obviously this has been done before, starting with Hitchcock’s Rope and both succeed in keeping the tension levels high. You never know what to expect.
And the music! My god, it’s like another character in itself. Expertly chosen and used, it’s a real shame Antonio Sánchez lost out on the Golden Globe for Best Score. It’s jazzy, frenetic and emotive and matches the various moods of the film perfectly. It really is a triumph of sound.
Michael Keaton won a Golden Globe for his performance in Birdman and rightly so. His character is vulnerable, angry, confused, dedicated and totally bonkers. He is able to bring the line of desperation and depression so close to comedy but you feel for him, this isn’t a comedy in the sense that it’s a laugh a minute, it’s also a drama but as is life, it can turn comic at times. This film isn’t going to be for everyone but I bloody loved it. It’s a shot in the arm for Hollywood.
Unpredictable, intimate and funny Birdman is a treat, please go see it. It deserves attention, praise and fans.