By: Grant Vance ~Staff Writer~
Darkly comedic and relentlessly satirical, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” is a masterpiece of film.
“Birdman” follows the formerly successful movie star, Riggan Thompson (played appropriately by the magnificent Michael Keaton), on his bitter journey of redemption in the eyes of his once-beloved fans.
Years after the massive commercial, critical and career-ending flop of “Birdman 3,” the third film in the Birdman franchise, Riggan sets his sights to the stage, where he aims to write, direct and star as the lead in his very own Broadway play in the hopes of recovering his career.
Though there are countless reasons why “Birdman” is a great film, its strongest quality lies in the introspection of its lead, examining
the psychological toll on the fallen artist.
On his steep climb back to the top, Riggan’s interaction with ex-loved ones, rivaling performers, critics and his own internal mockery via the Birdman character drive the film’s conflict by offering an insightful glimpse into the troubling mental toll a loss of relevance can have on an artist. Although its compelling story is why “Birdman” is especially worth seeing, González Iñárritu’s beautiful visuals will be what inspire the urge for multiple viewings. “Birdman” is seamlessly cut, creating a film that works as one fluid shot from start to finish, helping to better emulate the feel of a live performance.
Along with this slick editing technique, González Iñárritu also displays his elegant visual skills to much success during scenes of Riggan’s on-again, off-again telekinetic “powers.” These scenes work well with the frantic nature of the film, creating a manic atmosphere that helps the audience better relate to “Birdman’s” mentally troubled lead.
On top of everything magnificent surrounding “Birdman,” there’s also a fantastic cast. Keaton soars (both literally and figuratively) as the washed-up super hero star, adding a meta-layer of brilliance. Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts and Edward Norton round out the cast. Everyone stood out in his or her own way to a great degree of success, but Norton’s delusional thespian Mike Shiner absolutely stole the show. His despicably likeable persona meddled with Keaton’s Riggan in an electrifying way.
So far, the film has won “Best Screenplay of a Motion Picture” and landed Michael Keaton a victory in “Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy” at the Golden Globes. The film has also scored a number of nominations from various guilds’ and critics’ associations. “Birdman” is easily one of 2014’s best and most entertaining new movies and is sure to be nominated in several different categories once the 87th Academy Award nominations are announced.