For my first review of 2015, I’ll try to write about Birdman. This isn’t going to be as complex and interesting as the movie itself because that would be impossible for me to achieve. Instead, I’m going to praise its aspects that stood out without any spoilers because I went in almost completely blind and it blew me away!
Before I get into the hype of things, I should mention that I had two very different experiences with fellow movie goers in regards to Birdman. First, a friend of mine messaged me: “Birdman, what was it? I didn’t understand anything?!” and then, a friend of a friend stated, in a negative manner, that Birdman reminded them too much of Black Swan. First comment is understandable, Birdman is a complex and a very odd piece of cinematic gold, which might not appeal to the everyday movie watcher. The second comment though, where I felt a hint of criticism due to the amount of similarity between the two mentioned movies, felt a bit unnecessary. Yes, the symbolism of a bird is used in both but their meaning is different in Birdman and Black Swan.. so, I don’t see that fact as a negative aspect, ever.
Movies inspire people as well as other movies, so even if the similarities are there, the way the story is told, makes Birdman a rare experience. Firstly, the style of filming is from a completely different point of view we are usually accustomed to – the continuance of a scene from the beginning to the end of the movie. In other words, Birdman feels like it’s shot in a singular take and though it might feel a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, it becomes a highlight of the movie by the end. Playing with the light, having unclear cutoffs when people go through doors and showing the sky changing from night to day, Birdman flows surprisingly well considering its innovative and difficult style.
But Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu doesn’t stop there! What’s an innovative style of filming without a mind blowing script and an astonishing cast? Apparently nothing because Birdman puts so many cards on the table at once you’d think he is playing Go Fish. Yes, there’s a lot going on and sure, it sort of contradicts with the technical style but it doesn’t really matter in the end because Birdman is a roller coaster ride and the crazier the better, right?
At this point, I haven’t even touch upon the plot and to be honest, I’m unsure whether I’ll ever be able to fully understand what Birdman is all about. The fundamental idea of the movie is living in the past and trying to get back that glory that Riggan (Michael Keaton), the main character had as a superhero but in a more serious way. So, to get back his fame, Riggan has decided to put on a Broadway play.
As Riggan, our protagonist, wants to succeed with his serious play about love, we witness his struggles as a man, as a father, as a director, as a washed out superhero and also as an actor. We see different sides of him, too many to even count and Keaton’s performance shines since Riggan is so emotionally and mentally unstable. There’s not a moment where you don’t think about how much Riggan wants IT back and Keaton does an award worthy performance. In a way, I think Michael Keaton himself felt very connected to the story of Riggan because he once wore the Batman suit and well, we hadn’t really seen him around before Birdman came out. But no worries Keaton, we are all seeing you now!
Obviously, it helps when you have an equally strong supporting cast. Edward Norton as Mike was the surprise of the movie! I had heard so much about Keaton, Stone and Watts, but not so much about Norton. So when he appeared, I was instantly in love. Norton has always been a very strong support to his fellow actors, he is very memorable in his own performances but transfers that excitement to people around him as well. And talk about a role, Mike was so crazy and lacked any sort of balance which was so fun to watch.
And then there’s the female cast that was just right in every aspect that you simply take it for granted. You have the always lovely Emma Stone as Riggan’s daughter Sam, who had so much chemistry with Norton that I was worried for Garfield for a moment. Then there is Naomi Watts who shined the brightest next to Norton but was somehow easily forgettable at other times. I think this happened because her back story wasn’t developed enough to spark an interest towards her Broadway dream, but then again, Birdman’s focus is so strongly pointed at Riggan, you sort of forget everything else.
Annoyingly brilliant is the fact that by the time the end credits start rolling, Birdman has not answered all the questions and instead, raises an even bigger one! There’s a symbolism hidden in Birdman that I haven’t fully grasped yet, I’ve got an idea and I think it’s partially adequate but I’m not willing to share it yet. Besides, I think everybody is able to interpret Birdman differently and that’s the beauty of it. But, even though the meaning can be translated differently, I really want to know what was the original idea…
So I wonder and keep wondering.