By Mark Evans (London)
The film has been released with the backing and support of numerous film festivals. And like all films that have a backing of such festivals, the film can go one of two ways; a huge success or a massive flop. And the consensus seems split on this one. With many critics giving the film a solid ten, the general public seems to have missed the hype and award the film with a generous one star. Like all films that make it big with the festivals, there is an air of pretentiousness about it, and the critics’ backing only concretes the pretentiousness. There is no denying that it is a work of art, from the longest single shots in a film, to the superb acting, it’s certainly artistic to say the least. But like all works of art, the film is indulged in its own self-indulgences to the highest level.
The film follows Michael Keaton’s character Riggan, as he invests everything he has, both financially and emotionally into creating a successful Broadway show. Riggan is trying to shake off the superhero role and peak of his career in 1992. (This resonates Keaton’s past, as he also played the superhero role of Batman in Batman and Batman Returns. 1992 was also the year that Batman Returns was released).
Birdman was once the character that drove Riggan to success, but now taunts him, driving him further from reality into the depths of his insecure self. And the film shows his breakdown, which from the start is justified. His main actor is injured on opening night, and Mike played by Edward Norton, has a stern acting method that includes getting drunk on stage and trying to have actual intercourse in an attempt to bring reality to the play. Riggan goes through enough to shake the foundations of any secure and confident person. But Riggan is clearly not the everyman, and because of that, we can’t sympathise with him.
We are witness to some truly superb acting though. Keaton has never been more believable and Norton steals every scene. Zach Galifianakis plays a different role to his try-hard comedian. And although Emma Stone is worryingly slim, she’s attentive throughout, playing the moody rebellious teenager without taking the attention away from the scene. But with such flawless acting, imaginative shooting style and a brilliant music score that only consists of drums, is this too good to be true?
Well I don’t wholly trust the film, and I’m left uncertain of my thoughts towards it. I stand by my earlier point that it is completely self-indulgent, and although the story doesn’t have limitations in its emotional journey, nothing really happens. The ending makes you scream at the screen. Why didn’t they end it seconds before Stone’s unnecessary and story changing smile?
The film in parts doesn’t take itself too seriously. With jibes at current actors such as Robert Downey Jr. and Ryan Gosling, who I assume were aware of the light banter. But the biggest person in on the joke is Edward Norton, who’s renowned for being just as difficult behind the screen as his character shown on screen. Norton’s constant reluctance to just ‘act’ in a play and obsession with delving into the method actor apparently echoes through his past directors.
No question about it, the film is a work of art and revolutionary in its filming style. Swimming upstream against the commercially safe films, and films that do this tend to be deservedly or not inundated with awards.