Birdman [aka Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)]
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Writer: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo
Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Edward Norton, Merritt Wever, Amy Ryan, Lindsay Duncan
Part of: Viennale
Riggan (Michael Keaton) came to fame for playing superhero Birdman when he was younger. Now he’s a little washed-up and desperately trying to reclaim his former glory by mounting a play based on Raymond Carver‘s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. This is made slightly more difficult by the fact that Riggan lost his second lead actor only days before opening night, that the replacement hired – Mike (Edward Norton) – is horrible to work with and that New York’s most important critic Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan) hates Riggan. Not to forget, there’s also Riggan’s family, especially his daughter Sam (Emma Stone) who is trying to get back on her feet after rehab. But probably worst of all: in his head, Riggan can hear Birdman constantly berating him.
Birdman was funny, sad and cringeworthy all at the same time. Even though it wasn’t completely issue-free, I really enjoyed it a lot.
First, let me get the issues out of the way. There was the fact that Lesley (Naomi Watts) and Laura (Andrea Riseborough) do stumble a bit into queer baiting territory. It is not too bad and it is only a short sequence at least. And then there was the fact that Birdman is not only an asshole, he is also sexist and ableist and allkindsof-ist and it really wasn’t necessary. But since he is the symptom of a mental illness and mental illnesses are fuckers, that could also be forgiven. It’s just that I’m afraid a lot of people will sincerely laugh when he calls somebody a mongoloid.
Other than that, there is nothing I can fault the film with. I loved its pitch-black sense of humor. I loved where the story and the play were headed. I would actually really like to see the play (with the originally planned ending), preferably with that same cast. Because holy shit that cast was great, in its entirety not just the people on stage in the film. Of course, Michael Keaton and his role were particularly stand out, but everyone was wonderful. (And I am so happy that with this and the Wes Anderson movies, Edward Norton has come back from the hole of very bad films that he fell into for a while.) (And I’m also always happy when I get to see Merritt Wever.)
The camera work was great too – the film consists mostly of very long shots where the camera follows its objects through the long halls of the theater or onto the street. That showed on the one hand, how much space there is in all the corners of the theater (and it also gave us anice backstage view), but on the other hand it also showed how limited that world actually is.
It was a well-made, entertaining and smart film that made me want to read Raymond Carver. I’d say that’s an all around win.