Movie review: “Birdman”

Jared Hemming

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(via Film.com)

 

Despite it’s misleading name, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” is a near-flawless film executed to perfection with stellar performances from its cast, director, and music composer.

 

In the film, aging superhero movie star Michael Keaton takes a legitimate stab at artful acting by portraying Riggan Thomson, an aging superhero movie star who takes a legitimate stab at artful acting — on a Broadway theater stage with his adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story.

 

Don’t let the larger-than-life mechanical bird in the trailer fool you: “Birdman” is a minute character study on an actor’s (and human’s) never-ending quest for validation through relevancy. Throughout the film, Keaton’s Thomson loses his patience with his Broadway cast and crew (including a top-of-his-game Edward Norton), often leading him to conduct viral-worthy antics — ironic for a man whose daughter (Emma Stone) says “doesn’t even [have] a Facebook page.”

 

Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s efforts to capture the feel of a Broadway production bleed into the filmmaking: “Birdman” is shot exclusively in long takes, and is edited to look like one long, uninterrupted shot, like a play (or an Alfred Hitchcock film). This tactic avoids feeling gimmicky due to powerhouse performances from Keaton, Norton and Stone. Zach Galifianakis’s handiwork as Thomson’s lawyer and best friend steals the show, and it’s refreshing to see such an honest and committed performance from the truly hilarious comedian.

 

To spice up some rather dry transit scenes without breaking the take, jazz drummer Antonio Sánchez’s tight percussion solos score the entire film, keeping the on-screen tension high as Thomson contemplates a life unextraordinary. If you can manage to sneak a break between finishing up finals, “Birdman” is a must-see film.