Keaton resurrectus: "Birdman" reaches cinematic heights
Welcome to another episode of "Black Swan", with your host, the completely forgotten and possibly schizophrenic Michael Keaton as your star obsessed with feeling relevant (aren't we all) in "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)." This time, though the star still has repressed bird episodes, the madness takes place in the hectic environment of a doomed to fail Broadway play.
From the director of the heavy and unforgettable dark films, "Biutiful", "21 Grams", and "Babel", Alejandro González Iñárritu has given us a magical realist dark comedy that bends and breaks his actors in this depiction of the Broadway world.
Keaton's finally ready for his close-up Mr. DeMille, with the pair of wings and tighty-whities he's always wanted. Fasten your wing harness, its going to be an uncontrollable Icarus ride.
And mark my words, just like Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart", Keaton will win the best actor award for his performance onscreen in his underwear. If anything, he will surely be nominated with the usual suspects.
Michael Keaton's performance comes from out of left field, giving a completely true and vulnerable depiction of desperation that only those in the entertainment industry could really understand.
His character brings to mind the age-old problem many actors face once they become pigeon-holed into being one character and find breaking out of this about as difficult as men trying to break free of the friend zone. Some actors peak too early, like those kids in high school who you know will never leave their home town.
Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars series, Molly Ringwald after the 1980's, Haley Joel Osmit after "Sixth Sense". Actors who most certainly feel the brunt force of this effect are actors from super hero movies, as it is presented by Keaton's character, whose has-been nature results from his previous film performances as a comic book character called "Birdman".
Keaton, though his range as an actor is pretty large, is really only known for Beetlejuice and the two painful 90's Batman movies. But González Iñárritu has plastered him back into the spotlight, picking the perfect forgotten Hollywood actor to give a performance that rescues his career from behind the refrigerator.
And for the buffoons who thought "Magic in the Moonlight" was Emma Stone's climax to her career, boy do you look like paper weights to your editors. Though her bulging eyes made her look like an alien through the cinematographer's fish-eye camera lens, the complexity she brought to the screen will not be soon forgotten.
Though I'm sure it might burn to hear herself being compared to an actress a year younger and with more accolades, Stone presented her character in the rawness reminiscent of Jennifer Lawrence's performance as a similarly pissed-off and unpredictable woman in "Silver Linings Playbook."
Edward Norton gives a magnetic performance in his role of the seasoned Broadway star who swoops in to save the day and steals the show with his transparent middle aged looks and balsy, unorthodox acting technique. Honestly, its always fascinating watching actors play roles where they act, especially when they have to play someone who is better than everyone else.
Zach Galifianakis plays the role of the show's producer, Birdman's manager and the glue that holds the tumultuous cast together. His performance is reminiscent of our beloved Robin Williams in "The Birdcage"; the hilariously eccentric man in charge of keeping the situation from self-destructing.
The entire film is a broken fourth wall web that's both dizzying and fascinating. Previous winner for best cinematography for "Gravity", Emmanuel Lubezki, uses the camera as a ghost that curiously swings around the halls of the backstage, following the cast.
His camerawork and editing were manipulated to give the appearance that the film is one long take, a technique very similar to his previous work in "Gravity", "Tree of Life", "The New World", "To the Wonder" and "Children of Men". In these films, as well as "Birdman" the place of the camera in the story is not simply a structured fly on the wall or intrusion into a scene, it becomes a fully fleshed out character.
It flies uncontrollably with Sandra Bullock, it dances with Jessica Chastain and Collin Farrell, it runs through the fields alongside Rachel McAdams and it flies with Michael Keaton, all the while paying homage to the glory of nature and the universe. The camera becomes the free-flowing thought that is paired with the uncontrolled, free-flowing plot.
The script and screenplay, brainchildren of González Iñárritu as well as writers from "Biutiful", is entirely engrossing, mostly because it pulls you into the lingo and language of the Broadway world, as well as the politics that occur both onstage and off.
The film is both technologically complex as well as emotionally gripping as it ambitiously attempts to represent the realistic and human fears of not existing, of never existing to anyone. And the writers present a simple truth; that humans are so inherently insecure and are madly driven to convincing themselves that they are special hidden gems.
What perhaps is more inherently apparent from "Birdman" is something Tennessee Williams once wrote in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"; "Truth is dreams that don't come true and nobody prints your name in the paper 'til you die."