REVIEW: BIRDMAN

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CAST

Michael Keaton (Robocop 2014)
Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Naomi Watts (Insurgent)
Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover)
Edward Norton (The Bourne Legacy)
Jeremy Shamos (Nurse Jackie)
Andrea Riseborough (Oblivion)
Merrit Weaver (New Girl)
Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Lindsay Duncan (About Time)

Riggan Thomson is a faded American actor best known for playing the superhero ‘Birdman’, decades ago in a series of films. He is often tormented by the mocking and critical inner-voice of Birdman and frequently visualizes himself performing feats of levitation and telekinesis. Riggan hopes to re-awaken his career by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway-production of a loosely based adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”
The adaptation is produced by Riggan’s best friend and lawyer Jake, and also stars Riggan’s girlfriend Laura, and Broadway debutant Lesley. Riggan’s daughter Sam, a recovering drug addict, serves as his assistant. During rehearsals, a light fixture falls onto Riggan’s co-star Ralph; Riggan tells Jake that he caused the accident so he could upgrade the cast. At Lesley’s suggestion, Riggan replaces Ralph with the brilliant but volatile method actor Mike Shiner, who is also Lesley’s boyfriend. The first previews are disastrous: Mike breaks character over the replacement of his gin with water and attempts to rape Lesley during a sex scene. Riggan is incensed by press coverage praising Mike’s performance in the show, but Jake encourages him to continue. When Riggan berates Sam for using cannabis, she tells him he is expendable and that his play is a vanity project.
During the final preview, Riggan sees Sam and Mike kissing — this further fuels his suspicion that Mike is a rival and potential threat. Riggan goes outside to take a smoke break wearing nothing but his underwear and a robe, and accidentally locks himself out of the theater with his robe stuck in the door, forcing him to walk in his underwear through Times Square to get back inside; amateur videos of the incident go viral on YouTube. After the final preview Riggan, still deeply shaken by the events of the last few days, meets the influential critic Tabitha Dickinson, who tells him she hates ignorant Hollywood celebrities who only pretend to be actors and promises to “kill” his play with a deprecating review. After leaving, Riggan gets drunk and faints on the street. The next day, as he walks back to the theater, his visual and auditory hallucinations intensify and he fully hallucinates an extended conversation with a now visible Birdman, who tries to convince him to make another Birdman film. Riggan visualizes himself flying through the streets of Manhattan before returning to the theater.
Prior to the opening night, and with his hallucinations temporarily subsiding, Riggan meets Sam, who shows him the viral video of him walking through Times Square in his underwear. Rather than faulting her father for this, she admires him for it and comes to see him as more human and finally more accessible to her needs as his daughter. On the opening night, before the final scene of the play, Riggan confesses to his former wife Sylvia that he attempted to drown himself in the ocean after she caught him having an affair several years before. He also tells her about the inner Birdman voice he constantly hears in his head, which she ignores. After Sylvia wishes him luck and leaves the room, Riggan, whose character in the play commits suicide, replaces his prop pistol with a real loaded gun and prepares to actually commit suicide in the closing scene of the play. As the performance reaches its final scene, Riggan shoots himself in the head on-stage. The play ends with a standing ovation from all in the audience except Tabitha, who abruptly leaves.
The next day in a hospital, Riggan is revealed to have botched his suicide, merely blowing off his nose, which has been surgically replaced overnight. Jake visits him in the hospital and reveals that Tabitha gave the play a rave-review, calling his suicide attempt “super-realism,” a new form of method acting. Sam visits Riggan and soon steps out for a moment. He walks alone to the adjoining bathroom in his hospital room where he crudely dismisses Birdman and, seeing some birds outside, climbs onto the window ledge. When Sam returns, Riggan has disappeared with the window left open. She looks down at the street, then slowly up to the sky and smiles.Whilst viewing ‘Birdman’, I spent the first hour of the film trying to decipher my emotions and opinions towards it, what I was watching was a weird, yet wonderful work of art. Truly though, ‘Birdman’ is a technical masterpiece. Michael Keaton has generally been undermined as an actor (despite a few notable roles as Batman or Beetlejuice) and has instead faced Hollywood picking more acclaimed and popular actors. In Birdman his performance is mesmerizing. Alejandro González Iñárritu has created a truly spectacular character study that arguably features one of the  strongest acting performances, alongside a well- executed script, booming soundtrack and a monumental achievement with cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki in which he attempts a Hitchcockian approach.  This is a true definition of a masterpiece.

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