The buzz behind Writer/Director Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s BIRDMAN (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) certainly is deafening as we enter Awards Season, but just how good is it you ask?
The Showbiz Satire centers around Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a former Superhero Franchise Star who struggles to re-invent himself, directing and starring in a Play on Broadway titled What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, produced by his Best Friend Jake (Zach Galifianakis). Taking us through his insecurities and his emotional struggle in the days leading up to the Play’s debut, we see Riggan at the last minute try to find a replacement Actor and he succeeds in doing so with popular Actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton). Egos clash and we see an attraction develop between Mike and Riggan‘s tough former Addict Daughter Sam (Emma Stone) with whom Riggan is trying to repair his relationship with. All the while, we also see Mike falling out of love with Lesley (Naomi Watts), who also stars in the Play after aspiring her entire life to make it on Broadway. Laura (Andrea Riseborough) also stars in the Play and has been seeing Riggan for over two years and like Lesley, is experiencing a bit of strain in her relationship. Time is running out as Opening Night approaches. As passions explode and Riggan facing a paralyzing amount of self-doubt, we wonder whether or not he and the Play will self-destruct.
What makes this Dark Comedy so unique is that like the Play on which BIRDMAN centers, the Film also moves along fluidly as if its Story is being told in one continuous shot, almost bird-like in its motion. Everything down to its fittingly Jazz-oriented Score is unconventional in its rhythm. Iñárritu combines Art, Technical Trickery and some phenomenal collaborative writing with Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo for a superlative Moviegoing experience. BIRDMAN is a triumph on many levels and front and center are flawlessly-executed performances from a perfectly-cast Ensemble, each as strong as the other. If anyone understands Riggan‘s psyche as the former “Toast of Tinseltown“, it certainly is Keaton, who soars with the material given, unleashing pure fury here. He takes us deep into Riggan‘s troubled state of mind and never are we not rooting for him despite his increasingly-apparent battle with mental illness. Seen mostly in his underwear, Norton is in top form as the egotistical Mike, bringing out the best and worst in Riggan. Stone delivers some of her best work yet and her chemistry with Norton is undeniable, herself never giving too much away about the mysterious Sam. Watts and Riseborough despite being in Supporting Roles, shine plenty also thanks to some impeccable crafting. Galifianakis shows us range for once, not playing the pesky nuisance.
BIRDMAN leaves much to the imagination and we feel that despite it being told in the present, the storytelling is so remarkable that we feel as though we know these Characters, their histories and what it is that makes each of them tick. It absolutely cannot be missed and might even warrant a second viewing.
Fox Searchlight release BIRDMAN on Friday, October 24, 2014 in Toronto and Vancouver, with additional Cities to follow.