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|Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
dir Alejandro G Inarritu
scr Alejandro G Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo
prd Alejandro G Inarritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W Skotchdopole
with Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Lindsay Duncan, Merritt Wever, Jeremy Shamos, Bill Camp, Damian Young
release US 17.Oct.14, UK 2.Jan.15
14/US Fox 1h59
Me and my shadow: Keaton
VENICE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
In the tradition of thrillingly offbeat classics like Being There, Inarritu dives into the delusional side of the human brain with this snappy black comedy about the fall-out from fame. Cleverly casting Batman veteran Keaton in the lead role, he makes most of the film look like one single take, a tour-de-force exploring the swirl of reality and illusion in an actor's life.
To regain some professional respect, actor Riggan (Keaton) is writing and directing a Broadway play based on a Raymond Chandler story. Everyone sees him as the movie star from three Birdman blockbusters, while Birdman himself is mentally taunting Riggan about his superpowers. When a costar (Shamos) is injured in a stage accident, the lead actress Lesley (Watts) suggests hiring box-office draw Mike (Norton) as a replacement. But he tries to take over the show. Meanwhile, Riggan and his producer-friend Jake (Galifianakis) are juggling a high-maintenance costar (Riseborough), and both Riggan's daughter-assistant (Stone) and ex-wife (Ryan).
While the technical virtuosity of the apparent super-long take is seriously impressive and effectively enveloping, it's the witty script that makes the film gripping. Fast-paced and packed with visual and verbal gags, every moment is a barrage of comedy and drama, from breathtakingly barbed comments on Hollywood to startlingly dark emotions. Relationships bristle with a sense of history, as these people have clearly been through the wringer both personally and professionally.
Keaton is terrific in the most demanding role of his career, with only a couple of scenes that ring false. He makes Riggan a sympathetic mess, so preoccupied with his image that he fails to see who he really is. When he takes on the powerful New York Times theatre critic (the always superb Duncan), his lack of self-awareness is breathtaking. He may have fallen hard from his days as a superstar, but he's not willing to behave like a mere mortal.
This of course affects his interaction with everyone else on-screen, and the supporting cast is excellent, with stand-out work from Stone, Galifianakis and Watts, plus raucous, continually surprising turns from a hilariously brittle Riseborough and a full-on Norton. But this is more than sheer entertainment: amid the barbed humour, Inarritu is making important comments on the nature of sustained stardom and the showbiz class system. And even more potent is the film's unnervingly warm-hearted look at family dysfunction and mental instability.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
|R Stroulger, London: Generally i agree with Rich Cline's reviews but this movie passed me by. Norton's "luvvie" and Keaton's self obsessed character performances were good, but for me Birdman was a bit of a turkey. (04.Jan.15)
© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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