Birdman, released in 2015, tells the story of an actor, who was known highly for being a superhero. Michael Keaton stars in this comedic satire as a washed up actor as he tries to put together a Broadway play he has written. Throughout the course of the movie he battles with himself, his friends, his actors, and his family leading up to opening night. Alejandro González Iñárritu directs this original, dark, comedic satire, with cast appearances from Edward Norton and Emma Stone.
Michael Keaton, who just happened to play Tim Burton’s Batman in the ’80s and ’90s, plays Riggan Thompson. Thompson is a Hollywood actor who is best known for his role as Birdman, the star of a superhero movie. Thompson now decides to receive credit for not only directing, but producing and starring in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Whenever the movie first starts, the play is just days from opening, and so many things have to happen for this to be his perfect comeback as Riggan Thompson; not Birdman, as he is so famously known. Everyone in Times Square is more ecstatic to have the “Birdman” in their midst, almost expecting something from Thompson the “Birdman”, not Riggan Thompson the theater enthusiast.
What is portrayed is a backstage drama that is full of stress and mayhem. On stage everything is looked at as controlled and well composed. Between shows and sometimes acts however there is chaos, both emotional and physical. Riggan just happens to be on the edge of a financial downfall, he’s divorced, his daughter (Emma Stone who gives a great performance) is fresh out of drug rehab and she also happens to be his personal assistant with his acting career. To top it off, he has also impregnated one of the cast members. What a nightmare to have! There is also Riggan’s “Birdman” ego, which talks to him in a deep freaky baritone. Riggan also thinks he possesses the actual powers of Birdman, which include flight and telekinesis.
Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis are part of the cast, but serve as background characters in association with Riggan Thompson. Edward Norton plays a huge role as the award winning actor, Mike Shiner. Personally this is a loved movie. It was a very different style of movie for me. Action movies with flashbacks and different scene cuts are usually my cup of tea. My favorite thing about this movie is the never ending camera. What I mean by this is that the camera never really cut scene, and if it did it was very well hidden. It’s like the camera was rolling the entire movie, the ending of one scene was the beginning of another; which I found that very interesting. A scene that comes to mind is where Emma Stone was above the stage with Edward Norton, and then the camera moves away from them and the next scene has already begun, Edward Norton is already back on stage rehearsing. I think what grabbed my attention the most about the whole “never ending camera” idea is that it was done so well. Another thing I loved about this movie is the story line. Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of Birdman, did extremely well with this picture, along with the entire cast. The flow of the movie kept me wondering what was going to happen next. Keaton practically carried this film on his shoulders. Another big aspect of this movie was the music. Most of the time it was a drum solo. Jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez keys the mood with his exciting drum beats and fast paced playing. To me, whenever the drum solo was going on, it always seemed like Keaton was in a rush, or something exciting was happening. A scene that comes to mind is where Michael Keaton just happens to walk around outside in his underwear at a fast pace. The drumming speeds up as he walks faster; it plays in well. I think the selection of the jazz style drumming was terrific and well placed for this movie. The whole movie was one big roller-coaster of events that seemed to take place back to back, tying in with the never ending camera again.
The intensity of this movie never dies down, there are plenty of emotional ties throughout the screening that leaves the viewer on edge, just as I was. I would call it a backstage story; a story about the making of a Broadway play and all the chaos that unfolds leading up to opening night. There are many theatrical shots at actors, and even their egos. This piece is filmed in the Times Square/Theatre District. To make this movie look even more realistic it is filmed with a shaky handheld camera, obviously showing that it is an original piece. There is a joke towards the end though: the joke is that the similarities between Keaton’s career as Batman and his onscreen career as Birdman strike me as more than a coincidence. Overall, though, Birdman struck as a witty, but dark sense of humor tied into one big screening. Michael Keaton did a terrific job with this one and should be commended for his spectacular performance. So, if there happens to be a hungering for good movies, this one can be added to the list.
By: Dylan Neely