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Review: Birdman

Birdman
10.16.2014
10 10

Birdman Michael Keaton Edward Norton Emma Stone Naomi WattsSee JimmyO's Video Review here!

PLOT: Washed up former superstar Riggan Thomson attempts to stage an adaptation of a Raymond Carver story in a bid for legitimization, but the endeavor threatens to come undone thanks to his own insecurities and a bevy of uncooperative colleagues and relations.

REVIEW: Movies are rarely as thrilling and fun to experience as BIRDMAN, a razor sharp dark comedy that skewers everything in Hollywood - and New York's Broadway - from producers, actors, directors, narcissists, critics, comic books - among other things. But it's not only a film with a bleak wit and perceptive knowledge of the industry; it's a soulful examination of one man's crumbling sense of self. It's profound and half-crazy, wise and bold, and it will go down as one of the great satires in modern times.

Birdman Michael Keaton Edward Norton Emma Stone Naomi Watts

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, usually associated with grim dramas like 21 GRAMS and BABEL, looks at the human condition from a different angle here, presenting us with a flawed, desperate man in need of a reboot on life. Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is a once-popular actor known for a string of superhero movies called BIRDMAN, which seem about as cheesy as you'd expect. Yearning to be taken seriously, he passed on BIRDMAN 4 - against the judgement of the voice in the back of his head, which tells him he deserves to remain in the spotlight at any cost - Riggan is mounting an adaptation of Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" but having trouble getting it right. One of his actors (Jeremy Shamos) is a hammy fool, while another (Andrea Riseborough) might be pregnant with his child. He deals with his own nagging insecurity as a performer, while also faced with his inadequacy as a father to his recovering drug addict daughter (Emma Stone), who doubles as his bored assistant. The arrival of a pompous actor with "name-recognition" (Edward Norton) who questions his only move only further alienates him from his own sense of worth, and he begins to wonder if the play - or even life - is worth any of the hassle.

There have been plenty of behind-the-scenes Hollywood comedies that adroitly comment on the creative bankruptcy of the business, but none have done it with such flair and inventive wickedness as BIRDMAN. While not quite a fantasy, Inarritu utilizes a visionary toolbox to depict the tale of Riggan's mounting doubt of his own self and the unraveling of his play. Armed with the conceit that the story is being told with only one take (like Hitchcock's ROPE, the cuts are sneakily hidden), the director - with the aid of his brilliant cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki - delivers a visual masterpiece, with weird and wonderful sights around every corner, reality-based or not. (Riggan is under the assumption he can move objects with his mind, or float in the air during mediation.) We eventually don't even realize the gimmick is happening consciously, but the way his camera moves around the historic St. James Theater, where most of the film is set, is mesmerizing in both its simplicity and its complexity; the film makes staging 8-9 minute long takes look easy.

Birdman Michael Keaton Edward Norton Emma Stone Naomi Watts

But it's not all surface-level beauty; BIRDMAN comes armed with a handful of knives with which to stab at the black heart of the movie and theater industries. The fascination with franchises, the callous way it disposes of its stars, the self-satisfaction; any person with even a modicum of understanding of how Hollywood works will see it accurately portrayed as a brutal, "what have you done for me lately" town, while Broadway gets knocked for its pretentious stars and withering critics. Rarely is satire so unabashedly on-the-nose. This is not to say you have to be in-the-know to enjoy the way BIRDMAN batters its targets; the film's themes of redemption and contrition are applicable to all walks of life.

The cast is what gives the film a heartbeat; a ridiculously good ensemble. Keaton is, naturally, the perfect person to play Riggan. His face lined with years of hard living and unwelcome aging, Keaton brings Riggan's vulnerabilities and desperation to vivid life in a vanity-free performance for the ages. The cocky Michael Keaton we're so familiar with is gone, replaced by a man riddled with guilt and regret, yearning and bitterness. He's just so great. Keaton is surrounded by a supporting cast that is simply exemplary. Norton brings wily charisma to a character who isn't quite as jerky as he initially seems; Stone is outstanding as Riggan's patient but resentful daughter (her big eyes have never looked so haunted or alive); Zach Galifianakis is legitimately excellent as Riggan's harried producer; and Naomi Watts has a few really terrific, emotional scenes as an actress and ex-lover of Norton's character. This is a dream cast, the kind Outstanding Ensemble SAG Awards were made for.

BIRDMAN is a movie that isn't even really possible to accurately describe or explain. It's an experience, an operatic examination of the creative process and the roadblocks that mark our lives. It's a brilliant piece of work.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Source: JoBlo.com

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1:41AM on 02/11/2015

Love this movie

Completely agree. What a great movie. So refreshing to see. Great cast and filming/construction too.
Completely agree. What a great movie. So refreshing to see. Great cast and filming/construction too.
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11:30AM on 11/07/2014

Have to disagree...it happens...

Some spoilers below (labeled).

Unfortunately I have to strongly disagree with this review. The movie was "meh" at best. Some high points keep it from being a big fat ZERO (the introductory scene with Ed Norton was brilliant, for example and so was the very first scene with Michael Keaton at the opening of the film.
SPOILER:
The underwear scene was awesome.
END SPOILER

However, there were serious flaws in the entire structure of the movie. They are:
1) The gimmick of this
Some spoilers below (labeled).

Unfortunately I have to strongly disagree with this review. The movie was "meh" at best. Some high points keep it from being a big fat ZERO (the introductory scene with Ed Norton was brilliant, for example and so was the very first scene with Michael Keaton at the opening of the film.
SPOILER:
The underwear scene was awesome.
END SPOILER

However, there were serious flaws in the entire structure of the movie. They are:
1) The gimmick of this being "one long take" was completely lost to me. I went into the movie not hearing anything about such an approach, and therefore anything "special" that such an approach was supposed to bring to the movie was lost entirely on me. I didn't walk out thinking "wow, there was something special about that editing that I really liked". To whit: a huge waste of effort for no audience pay off.
2) The plot had real potential, and seriously failed to deliver. It's funny that Eric says "Broadway gets knocked for its pretentious stars", because this movie came off as ridiculously pretentious itself. If ever a movie was desperate for people to think it was relevant, important, full of thoughtful philosophy and in-depth characters it was this movie.
3) There was plenty of unnecessary bullshit. The point of the lesbian kiss? Of the Erectile Dysfunction? They added nothing to the overall story.
4) Dull, dull, dull stretches throughout the film.

I walked out of Birdman confused on two levels. First, confused because I really wanted to like it. But also confused about the point of the film, which I felt was wrapped up in the "review" written by the play critic.

SPOILER: The review by the play critic at the end of the film did not in any way fit the critic character. Just because Michael Keaton shot himself doesn't mean the critic would suddenly LOVE his play. And the fact that he was going to shoot himself was as obvious as could be almost an hour before it happened.
END SPOILER

So, all in all, boring, pretentious, somewhat predictable and ultimately not watchable a second time.
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9:41AM on 10/17/2014
So Iñarritu made a movie without people dying of cancer, puking blood, sufferin` and all that stuff. Ok maybe he made a decent film now!
So Iñarritu made a movie without people dying of cancer, puking blood, sufferin` and all that stuff. Ok maybe he made a decent film now!
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3:02AM on 10/17/2014
I'm hoping that following this film, we see Adam West-ing done smart. Making self-referential jokes about your glory days as an actor is well and good but this looks to give so many more layers to that and that in itself is really intriguing.
I'm hoping that following this film, we see Adam West-ing done smart. Making self-referential jokes about your glory days as an actor is well and good but this looks to give so many more layers to that and that in itself is really intriguing.
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11:00PM on 10/16/2014

keaton....

i'm a fan of this guy...i will watch this. oh yes, i will.
i'm a fan of this guy...i will watch this. oh yes, i will.
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10:30PM on 10/16/2014
I WILL see this one! Let's make a comeback!
I WILL see this one! Let's make a comeback!
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6:40PM on 10/16/2014
After seeing Ed Norton in that pic, just give him a trucker hat, shades, and a cigarette and he would be a perfect Dale from King of the Hill if they ever do a live version.
After seeing Ed Norton in that pic, just give him a trucker hat, shades, and a cigarette and he would be a perfect Dale from King of the Hill if they ever do a live version.
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9:08PM on 10/16/2014
I'd love to see that!
I'd love to see that!
5:21PM on 10/16/2014
10/10? Damn!
10/10? Damn!
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4:56PM on 10/16/2014

Nice...

An encouraging review! I was on the fence about checking this out, but definitely will now.
An encouraging review! I was on the fence about checking this out, but definitely will now.
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4:02PM on 10/16/2014

Sweet!

Can't wait to check it out, been looking forward to this one for a little while now
Can't wait to check it out, been looking forward to this one for a little while now
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3:44PM on 10/16/2014

I can't wait

It is good to see Keaton back...the guy is extremely under appreciated in Hollywood
It is good to see Keaton back...the guy is extremely under appreciated in Hollywood
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3:28PM on 10/16/2014
Not surprised for the many who have us 21
Grams. Aka one of the best movies ever made.
Not surprised for the many who have us 21
Grams. Aka one of the best movies ever made.
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3:16PM on 10/16/2014
Been looking forward to this one. Can't wait to see it.
Been looking forward to this one. Can't wait to see it.
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2:57PM on 10/16/2014
Awesome review. Glad to read that it's something that one can't really describe and that it's a film that one must experience to really get a grasp on the idea and execution.

But I can't wait to see this. The film looks absolutely terrific and visually well crafted and colorful. All for the return of Michael Keaton. He's been out of the spotlight for too long.
Awesome review. Glad to read that it's something that one can't really describe and that it's a film that one must experience to really get a grasp on the idea and execution.

But I can't wait to see this. The film looks absolutely terrific and visually well crafted and colorful. All for the return of Michael Keaton. He's been out of the spotlight for too long.
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2:35PM on 10/16/2014
I stopped reading after the first paragraph of the review. You had me at "Birdman."
I stopped reading after the first paragraph of the review. You had me at "Birdman."
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