By Matt Cuartero
“How did we end up here? This place is horrible.”
Birdman is the latest product from Mexican Director and Screenwriter Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who has produced hit films such as Babel and Biutiful. Inarritu is known for his overly unorthodox screenwriting and stage direction, and this is definitely shown in this Oscar-winning movie. Birdman follows Michael Keaton, who plays Riggan Thomas, a washed-up actor most reputed for as an 80s cinema superhero. Birdman follows Keaton as he struggles to find self-worth and to create a fantastic Broadway play that will recover both his broken family and his career. This is a black comedy/drama, which stars famous actors and actresses such as Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), Edward Norton (Fight Club), Emma Stone (Easy A), and Naomi Watts (The Impossible).
As mentioned before, Birdman is a black comedy/drama, and the movie displays this genre in an idyllic fashion. A black comedy is where the given movie/show has morbid humor, along with taking taboo topics and shedding light on them. The movie makes fun of actors and movies in general, showcasing the life of broadway and the production life of an actor. This not only refers to the movie, but transcends to real life, poking fun at the actual lives of actors and what happens as they age. The movie is both clever in its writing and the acting is monumental from all the cast. I was impressed to see Michael Keaton as the lead role, and he plays Birdman fantastically. The movie parallels real life, and the viewer is tricked in a way to believe that the movie is based on a true event, rather than fiction.
The movie also takes jabs at Michael Keaton’s true acting career. Many people know him for his role as Batman in the 1989 movie, Batman. Director Inarritu showcases that the audience who knows him sees him only as the actor for Batman, and Keaton can’t escape that reputation. I especially enjoyed Edward Norton, who was undoubtedly the best actor in the movie as Michael Shiner.
Birdman is an arthouse film. An arthouse film does its best to be unorthodox and be revolutionary in the cinema world, which Birdman definitely does. But the plot had little advances and it was not a fun movie to watch, only to analyze. Birdman does a lot to tend to the arthouse genre and hits the niche audience arthouse films are supposed to hit.
While Birdman has critics raving, this is where I jump off the fan bus. I do very much appreciate its beautiful art style. I love its humor and its metaphysical connections to our actual world. The acting is spot on by every actor, and it’s an evolution in cinema for sure. However, I did not really enjoy the movie.
One can notice the camera-work in that it looks like the entire movie was taken in one shot. This is through Inarritu’s design in that every scene is flawlessly seamed, and that cut is disguised through both cut pans and lighting effects. The viewer will have to pay extreme attention to know where the movie cuts or not. This is a creative idea, and is very artistic, but it was a bit distracting and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I liked the idea of it. It is a beautifully imagistic movie, and I love how the camera work and scenery are done, but this type of filming wasn’t very attractive to me. It made me a bit nauseous to see the camera pan and move scene to scene, over and over again. To be fair, however, Birdman does very well in its cinematography, scenery, and visual effects. The actual scenes of the movie were very appealing to look at.
Birdman also uses a drum overlay to show the emotions of the characters on the screen. Again, good idea. However, most people viewing won’t appreciate it, and I thought this was a bit distracting. I thought that the typical telling not showing would have been better. As the cadence and speed begins to pick up, emotions are higher, and lower when the drums slow. But this is a bit annoying and can get the viewer off track.
Birdman’s plot was a good one on paper, but the movie tended to drag on for quite a while, and I didn’t really see any emotional outpour or ecphonesis from Michael Keaton to attest where his life has gone. I enjoy the scene where he has an emotional tantrum and is fighting between his Birdman and himself, but I thought that the movie didn’t do a good job at showing the audience what he was going through. Birdman is not a bad movie at all. It makes great strides in cinematography and it has a mature and smart plot. But unless you are into the movie for the artistic aspect, or love the acting in general, the movie is not good to watch for mainstream viewers. I appreciated what Birdman had to offer, but it did not live up to my expectations.