Birdman

Film, Drama
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 3 out of 5 stars
(20user reviews)
2 Love It
Save it
Birdman

‘Most of the successful people in Hollywood are failures as human beings.’ So said Marlon Brando. But what happens when their 15 minutes are up? It’s not like failure suddenly transforms former mega-celebs into humble human beings who can pick up their own coffee from Starbucks. That's Michael Keaton’s problem in this savagely funny, strangely sweet, sad and utterly brilliant New York-set comedy from Mexican writer-director Alejandro González Iñárritu, better known for his gloomy, state-of-the world dramas 'Babel' and '21 Grams'.

Keaton is Riggan Thomson, an actor who raked in the cash in the early 1990s as a lame pre-‘Avengers’ superhero in a blockbuster franchise (a clear nod to Keaton's own days as Batman). He hasn’t made a Birdman film in years – but Birdman is still part of him. Quite literally: there's a naff, booming comic voice in his head (‘You're the real deal’), and it gives him superhuman powers. Is Birdman a figment of Riggan's imagination? Is this a dig at superstar actors with inflated egos who have trouble telling the difference between real-life and their movie characters? Whatever it is, Riggan has problems. He’s trying to reinvent himself for a second act as a Serious Artist, remortgaging the house in Malibu to write, direct and star in an adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story on Broadway. But Birdman is shitting on the plan, telling Riggan to make a reality TV show instead of this ‘piece of shit’.

'Birdman' is hilarious simply as a film about putting on a play, shot by Iñárritu in a jittery, handheld style. Emma Stone, with ripped tights and bleached hair, is brutally funny as Riggan's messed-up daughter, fresh out of rehab. There’s something a bit Wes Anderson for grown-ups about these people. Edward Norton is a stage actor a couple of decades too old for his bad boy, rock-star-of-Broadway routine, who joins the troubled play at the eleventh hour. When he gets an erection on stage, Stone waspishly points out it's getting more Twitter reviews than the play.

This isn't the super-cynical, snarky piss-take of actors it might sound like. Iñárritu feels for these people. Norton, hitting on Stone, tells her with disarming sincerity that, if he could have any part of her, it would be her eyes – so he could see New York again as a 20-year-old. It’s an extraordinarily touching moment. Best of all, Keaton is dream casting, and he’s fearless, never holding back with the rodent-like, twitchy facial tics. The film's subtitle is: ‘The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.’ And the brutal truth is even when he’s trying to be a good dad, Riggan can never get past his own ego. And that same ego (Birdman?) will also protect him from life's slings and arrows.

We know Iñárritu has a dark side (just look at his previous films like ‘Amores Perros’ and ‘Babel'), and it's not entirely hidden here. Life is disappointing, his film is saying (it opens with a Carver quote, ‘Did you get what you wanted out of life?'). But it's also beautiful and, at times, unexpected. This film does real justice to that idea: it's dazzling and rambling, intimate and sprawling, and it's carried along by an infectious, off-the-cuff jazz score. As soon as it ends, you'll be dying to fly with it again.

By: Cath Clarke

Posted:

Release details

Release date: Friday January 2 2015
Duration: 119 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Screenwriter: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo
Cast: Michael Keaton
Emma Stone
Andrea Riseborough
Edward Norton
Zach Galifianakis

Average User Rating

3.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:6
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:7
  • 1 star:1
LiveReviews|20
1 person listening
Paul C
1 of 1 found helpful
Tastemaker

Yes it is rambling and sprawling but I will pass on the dazzling and intimate which must have flown over my head. A tedious night at the pictures, a few people left and the thought crossed my mind as this film tries too hard. It probably read well on paper but struggled onto the screen. Should've been called Guano.

Craig J
1 of 2 found helpful

For me the closest relative of this dire work is MAPS TO THE STARS - both set out to break free of the constraints of the 'creative artist' story; but ultimately they both fall into the same trap of linear, mundane storytelling. Yes the tracking shots are cute, yes the drummer makes you smile - but it never actually shifts planes into something deeper. The dialogue at times is Hollywood (okay Theatreland) 101. Critics only write because they can't act/direct (like we haven't heard that flaccid argument again and again). And there's nothing more un-ironic (okay that may not be a word!) than Norton's character delivering the sounds-like-a-greeting-card line after delivering...guess what...yeah, exactly. For me, the first huge disappointment of 2015. 

gary k
1 of 2 found helpful

Fair enough performances are great, but 2nd Jan and already strong contender for most overrated film of the year! It's so pretentious the only way it could be further up its own a**e is if it sporadically flashed 'indie art-house project' on the screen. In the end it becomes a parody of itself.

Matt Brady

"I'm nothing. I'm not even here."

The story to Birdman is about an wash up actor (Michael Keaton) - famous for portraying an iconic superhero - as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself.

Okay in my review of Whiplash I bought this movie up mid way through the review just to give a heads up of when I'm going to watch it, because Birdman was my most anticipated film of 2014. But just like every time I really wanted to see a film so baldy I have to wait for a while until I finally get a chance to watch it, story of my life really. But anywhere, I was really looking forward to this movie ever since September, and now finally seeing the film I can safely say that Birdman is one of the best movie of 2014.

I always know that Micheal Keaton was the kind of movie star that will pick any random movie role just because... well he what's to be important and still show to everyone that he still got it, I guess. Early last year he was in two movies that were pretty blah, and that was The Robocop (remake) and Need for Speed, and those films just made Keaton look like he was just cashing it in just for the sake of it. Until I watched this movie and seeing Micheal Keaton's performance and thinking to myself "Wait is Keaton giving probably his best performance I've ever seen in my life? I think he is", because Keaton in this movie pretty much pulls of the best performance I've seen him in his all career. His character in this movie is like a washed up actor who had everything like: the love from the critics and he's fans. Yeah he still dose have that Keaton thing that he always dose in his previous movies, but the scenes where he plays his character (Which is himself if you really look at his character in this movie) but anywhere he still gives a strong and believable performance that at times give me flashbacks of the good old days when he still had roots and felt like he isn't just cashing it in. I hear a lot of Oscar buzz about his performance in this movie, and I wouldn't be surprise if he wins because he totally deserves it. Excellent work Keaton.

Edward Norton is also in this movie and played a familiar character to himself has the hard to work with actor that at times doesn't follow the lines that he was given or even the direction he was told. We already know that Norton is a fantastic actor in his previous work, but in this movie his performance could be descried has stellar and insanely good.

Emma Stone is this movie and of course like most of the actors I named off so far who were outstanding in this movie and well you can already guess what I'm going to say next. Emma Stone acting in this movie was just terrific and marvellous to watch. It's good to see a real break out performance from her more than the lay back ones in her other movies. Nice one Emma. The other cast in the movie like Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis both did good as well.

The whole movie is shot to look like it's all in one shot and my mind was just blown away by that fact. There were scenes in way I said to myself "Oh my god is it one shot?", well I can already imagine the stress, hard work and how many takes they had to do to get it, and boy did it pay off nicely, because I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. I dared myself to look away from the beautiful cinematography and the impressive editing used in the film.

The movie has a brilliant message about film critics today that doesn't feel like it's in your face message that you normally get in movies. There's a scene in this movie and by the way it's not a spoiler, but I really need to get this out the way first. Micheal Keaton character starts having a rant over this theater critic who is going to give a bad review to he's play when she hasn't even seen it or any of the premieres. He talks about how she only users big words that nobody will say in person and shes to lazy to come up what she really thinks about it so she users big words just to fill in the sentence. This movie probably has the best rant in movie history and Keaton in that scene shows how good of a actor that he is.

For problems in the movie: I really don't have any to be honest.

I loved this movie and yes I'm coming out be saying that. This isn't just the best movie of the year and such, no this is just flawless film making right here. Birdman and Whiplash are the two films I will highly recommend to people, because those two films are my favorite films of 2014.

Liz G
tastemaker

Wickedly wacky... I really enjoyed this slightly bizarre film and definitely think it was Michael Keaton at his best.

O. Gordon
Tastemaker

I was keen to see Birdman. Oscar winner, tick. Received well by the critics but not so well at the box office, tick (I'm not one for a Hollywood Blockbuster). A film reliant on a script and characters rather than CGI and quick cuts, tick. The first hour was pretty much everything I wanted from it. The dialogue is slick, the chemistry is great, the cinematography and direction is very well thought out and the pace never lets up. Then, when you think you have a handle on the direction it's heading in, it becomes more introspective. I was enjoying the relationships between the key characters and the struggle to produce a hit play, not so much the internal battle of the main protagonist. From here it becomes a bit vague and a bit confusing. When the visual effects started to permeate the screen I felt a pang of disappointment, not that they are done badly, just that they don't add much to the film. 


Surprised it won the Oscar but definitely worth a watch.

aerweise
Tastemaker

This movie is just weird and I'm pretty sure I didn't get it... I don't know if it's based on a book, but I think the story would work better off screen.

Maxibuoy

Really enjoyed this film, Mr Keaton really is a very good actor after all and Ed Norton jumps in with a really good performance, bit of a nutty storylinebut well worth a watch.

Alex Plim
moderatorStaff Writer

A simply stunning film. It draws you into its carefully constructed world, full of extraordinary characters and complex backstories, and spits you back out after two absorbing hours. You'll feel exhausted by the constant stress and tension, but invigorated by the time it ends. Of particular note is the soundtrack – one big drum solo that gives the movie constant pace and vigour. It's fantastic.

Leonora P

I was rather disappointed.  Keaton is good and, being a fan of the theatre, I liked the set-up and the behind-the-scenes goings-on.  But I did not like the ambiguous ending, and the film too often came across like it was trying too hard.  I agree with Craig J's comments (below). 

Nora B

"title"


Nice picture, good acting in an extremely boring and very long film.

Sarah S

Really didn't like this film, apart from a couple of scenes maybe. Found it pretentious and self-indulgent and left the cinema feeling grumpy and disappointed. Wouldn't recommend.

Alberto L

Brilliant. Ed Norton is incredible the photography is stunning and the script is even better. Best film I have seen in years.

Thierry Faucher

"title"


Brilliant unique idea,interesting touch on very real scenarios that everyone can relate to.The fluid movement of camera shots and the drumming audio create such intensity throughout.BRAVO BRAVO!!

joe n

 A typical modern American film, in that it had some merit but spoilt by poor sound recording and poor articulation of dialogue. Couldn't understand a significant percentage what the characters were saying. Also the recommended sound levels were far too loud, came out with a brain battering headache.

critique _

Well crafted but mind-numbingly tedious theatrical drama. Not my cup of tea at all. Two and a half stars.

Elias T

brilliant. as everything that A G Innaritu directed (Amores Perros, 21 grams, babel) . And making the whole film as if it's just one long shot is impressive. Michael keaton and edward norton are also brilliant. I doubt I'll see anything better this year. You need to be open minded though.. it's not a linear and logical story.

hermione00801 .

All the parts are great: acting, cinematography, direction, photography, but the result is somewhat underwhelming. But Edward Norton, oh baby, there are no words!!!!!!

Josephine O

this is going to be my favourite movie of 2015 - I just feel it - its real, gritty , edgy and true  and its life ....

want to see it again and again