I’m not sure I can sum this one up without a Beat score and a poem, but then it would be more about me than the piece, so I’ll try a different way. Birdman is about love, fame, self-worth, celebrity, theatre, film, society, industry and art, past and present. It is, in short, an astounding piece of work both for what is on screen and the craft behind it. Filmed as a fluid (if digitally created) one-take, the story drives relentlessly forward, never letting up, much like life. It is, simply, a tour de force.
Put another way, it is the best film I’ve seen since the equally original, though very different, The Grand Budapest Hotel this year. Darker, but still very much a story about the characters involved in very intimate ways.
Iñárritu (Babel), reteamed with his Biutiful writing partners, has created an astounding piece of film that straddles theater and cinema in a way that I’ve never seen done so seamlessly. Polanski tried with Carnage but it never quite gelled. Many plays have been adapted to screen, and many films stylized to feel like stage, but Birdman sits somewhere new, which appropriate given some of the subject matter. The medium is very much part of the message with this bit of light and shadow.
Keaton (Batman) is every bit as great as you’ve heard. But he isn’t the only star to shine in this not-quite-ensemble piece. Stone (Amazing Spider-Man), Norton (Bourne Legacy), Duncan (Honourable Woman), Galifianakis (It’s Kind of a Funny Story), Ryan (Escape Plan), Watts (Adore), Riseborough (Oblivion) and others bring all of it together… never quite real, never quite staged.
Support this one in the movie house. Not just so we continue to get such wonderful fare, but also because it needs to be seen on the larger screen. Yes, it will translate to the small screen, but it will be a translation, not the same effect the larger screen will provide. And when you sit down, forget everything I’ve said here to get you there and just let it take you away to wherever you want to go.