Censor Rating: R (USA), A (India)
There is always a debate going on in the film fraternity - is drama/thriller cinema being replaced by comic book popcorn flicks? Can someone who builds his/her career in a popcorn flick really provide a stellar performance on the grand stage which is the “real” cinema? Do visual effects really cloud an actor’s capability to deliver onstage or in a serious flick? You would probably have all these questions bundled up in your head whenever you step out of the theater. Well, here is a movie which takes these questions and binds them in an unexpectedly fun journey into what does an actor go through in this transition.
Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (2 titles, both mean a lot in this movie) centers around Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton)- a superstar celebrity - who played and became famous as Birdman around 20 years is trying to salvage his career by adapting a famous short story by Raymond Carver. The movie showcases the 3 days leading upto the play hitting mainstream broadway including the previews. It shows the struggle of the actor as he tries to balance his own ego with the expectation (or there lack of) from the play. To make matters worst, one of his lead actors, Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), makes his life hell by using shady tactics to get his performance recognized. The movie focusses on the trials and tribulations of a superhero celebrity as he tries to make his mark on broadway and get the world to accept him as an actor rather than a celebrity.
Story & Direction: The story takes the comic book vs serious movie debate head on and conveys it through the eyes and mind of a washed up comic book hero. His inner fights (beautifully portrayed through his “Birdman” alter-ego) are very compelling to watch and depicts the roadblocks/hindrances that an actor faces to be taken seriously in an industry. More than external forces, the story is a journey inwards for an actor to take up a major broadway show in a big way. The script is a bit slow but has the metal to keep the audience engage on how the journey would unfold. The title of the movie (both of them) depict the exact 2 personas at play here. Initially I was not sure why there were 2 titles but was smiling at the end of it.
Easily the best sequenced movie that I have seen. Alejandro Inarritu uses an interesting style of movie making which brings out the captivating effect that a story of such nature needs. Definitely a one of kind approach that I have seen taken in recent times. The style allows the director to compensate for the slowness in the script by good flowing sequences. Editing and camera work is crisp and compliments the style portrayed.
Cast: Edward Norton and Michael Keaton both steal the show in this one. Michael’s portrayal of Riggan seems to be drawn from his real life struggles after his years of playing Batman in the late 80s but take nothing away from him, he really rules the roost in this movie delivering an amazingly complex character with ease. This year is for him to win. Edward Norton does what he does best, takes a good character and provides a really appealing performance that connects and compliments the primary character. His showing proves once again that given the role, Edward can really shine.
The supporting cast is also quite stellar and do the act of supporting really well. Emma Stone goes a decent job as is Zach Galifianakis and Naomi Watts (whom I felt could have been used more). The key to a successful movie is the right blend of talent and this movie has it. Kudos to the casting directors!
Bottomline: This isnt your typical Oscar favourite but with a subject as unique and complex as this, the movie hits the right notes and drives home the point. If you love an alter-ego struggle, you would love and understand this movie. It is a good watch and a definite Oscar contender.