At long last Birdman has been released in the UK. Across the pond everyone has been talking about this film for months and it has dominated most movie discussion and end of year lists. Naturally with such a popular film comes the ridiculous level of hype, films rarely stand up to this. Unfortunately I think Birdman is another example of how hype can really negatively affect a movie, however I am going to try my best to review this film just as it is and not against the high level of expectation.
Birdman has a fantastic cast including, Michael Keaton, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts. However it was Zach Galifianakis and Edward Norton who stood out for me. Even though the entire cast were really great here and perform so well these two actors delivered the more memorable performances in my opinion. Something slightly different for Galifianakis and a really refreshing role for him and in the case of Norton I just thought he had great variety within his role to showcase his talent. Ironically part of the story in Birdman regarding Norton’s character, Mike, I thought was also true of Birdman itself as a film (you will understand what I mean if you have seen the movie). This film focuses around Keaton’s character (Riggan) and his attempts to become relevant again through a play. The best parts of this film were simply watching the rehearsals/previews and opening night of the play itself – I found this particularity engaging just because of the whole set up of actors acting actors acting. The moments in between the play sections had variation in terms of interest, I found myself often going from being completely engaged in what I was watching to being completely unattached to the events on screen, leading me to think that Birdman was too long at stages. One thing that really helped with my engagement though was the wonderful way in which Birdman was shot. The film takes place in one continuous shot, although it isn’t actually shot this way but just made to look like this, this was fascinating to watch and was a great tool in helping Birdman flow between scenes. Also with a score that could have been lifted straight out of Whiplash Birdman quickly becomes a feast for more than just one sense.
However my issues with Birdman comes in what it tries to communicate, I am partially to blame for this though. I feel a lot of what Birdman is trying to comment on just went over my head. The film comments on so much that I found it hard to keep up with. Just some of the themes/issues focused on here include; critics, cinema vs. theatre, celebrities opposed to actors, superhero film culture, actors careers drying up, the desire to be relevant. Those were just some of the issues featured and due to the large number included I found it hard to work out what it was that Birdman was trying to say. I think this film is quite intellectual and there are some parts where I am really not sure what even happened. I am not saying that these sections are bad but just I found it hard to interpret the meaning of what I was watching, potentially meaning that this film may not appeal to a mass audience. I am hoping that with future re-watches of the film I will be able to gain a fuller understanding of the message of this film. The film also raised questions for me; was this film Michael Keaton being very self-aware of his own career? Is Birdman a play on Batman or was that just coincidence? However amongst all of these issues and questions came a lot of humour as well, it is quite outrageous at points and I enjoyed how it used such up to date popular culture as the inclusion of this was critical for the relevance of the movie. Relevant is a word I would use to describe the film and I think it has such potential for analysis – I’m just not sure I am capable of that on my own accord.
In conclusion Birdman ends up being one of the most unique films I have seen, it is a relevant film which addresses many issues however maybe too many and in too much detail, personally I found it hard to keep up with and to have a full understanding of what I was watching. The film has a fantastic cast who all do a great job and there are parts of this film that become so engaging because of this. Birdman won’t appeal to everyone however those that it will appeal to should love it.
BIGGEST FLAW – At times hard to have clarity in both events in the story and messages being communicated
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT – The way Birdman is shot
Rating – 8/10