My words will not be able to justify my enjoyment and admiration for this film. Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) has been receiving a lot of press from the entertainment news outlets for it’s technical sophistication. While this praise is of course completely validated, I firmly believe that the performances in the film deserve just as much, if not more acclaim. Led by the outstanding direction of Alejandro González Iñárritu, this is the kind of flick that anyone can watch and simply enjoy all of the marvels that it has to offer. You don’t get movies like that too often, especially during awards season. Birdman boasts unprecedented technical excellence that allows its cast to perform in unique and powerful ways, resulting in an incredible movie-going experience.
I went into Birdman ready to pick out and try to find flaws in its renowned “one-take” direction in cinematography. All I wanted was to find the edits since I’m a movie geek. It did not take very long at all for me to completely forget about the structure of the cinematography. I was completely absorbed in the story and the characters. Michael Keaton led the film’s cast with such remarkable skill and natural grace; it was beautiful to watch. Finding escapism in movies can be hard lately with some of the generic blockbuster fair and repetitively pretentious nature of the award season movies.
The refreshing simplicity of Birdman’s plot is an absolute pleasure. The basic synopsis of the film tells the story of a once world-famous actor known for his portrayal of a blockbuster superhero as he attempts to write, direct, and star in a Broadway show. The themes of the film are very clear and remain a drive for its pacing. Of course the characters still have their own layers and motivations, but the beauty is that those aren’t lost in overbearing plot or exposition. The exposition has a sweet, natural flow, thanks to the screenplay composed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo. The writing team supplies the screenplay with memorable character beats for each of actors and actresses. They also add a fair amount of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat, especially during the second and third acts.
Acting in this film could not have been an easy feat, but you could hardly tell with such talent. The actors take the script and run a marathon with it. I can’t bring up a weak link in the cast. Michael Keaton and Edward Norton absolutely kill it, playing the more outlandish characters in the film. Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis step out of their comfort zones with magnificent performances. This is really Keaton’s show though, and it would be insulting if he didn’t receive Oscar consideration for Best Lead Actor. It was just such a joy to see an actor as great as Michael Keaton finally get a part that really showcases his abilities and talent in a way he hasn’t really been able to do before. He goes from sad to hilarious to dramatic at the drop of a hat.
The “one-take” style of the film isn’t the only technical corner of Birdman that led it to success. Birdman featured such a fantastic score by Antonio Sanchez. During most of the runtime, a simple percussion backtrack is used- a single drum kit. It works so well, growing and swinging with the drama of the film. It should also go without saying that Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography was unreal. The camera also feels like a character all in itself, leading us through the story and sharing the experience with us.
If it hasn’t been evidently clear, I loved Birdman. Not only does the movie exceed the hype that surrounds it, it completely transcends the traditional Hollywood release. A great cast, an incredible director, and top-notch writing team resulted in an unforgettable picture. A film like no other in its class; I look forward the growth of its success. It isn’t Oscar bait, so it may be overlooked by the conservative and no-fun-for-anyone nature of the Academy but that isn’t what matters. Birdman is terrific and, of course, soars high.
Montclair State | New Jersey