Not since watching “Being John Malkovic,” have I been blown away by a film that combines comedy, satire and absurdism all in equal measure. Director and co-writer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel,” “21 Grams”) works us over with his black comedy Birdman, a satire that details the high-wire act of living a fulfilling life after superstardom ends.
It was reported that Michael Keaton turned down 15 million dollars to play the lead role in The Dark Night Rises, part 4 of the Batman series franchise. This endearing backstory shrouds this film and makes you want to pull for Keaton even more. After years of wallowing in relative obscurity, Keaton is back on top, playing an older washed-up version of himself in Birdman.
Birdman, a film about a crazy fucked up Broadway play is loads of fun and Keaton does the heavy lifting as he tries to revive his acting sagging career from obscurity. He is directing and starring in a profit losing theatrical adaptation of a little known Ray Carver novel. An aging bitter New York critic is dubious about Keaton’s motives as she vows to end this pretentious Hollywood intrusion on Broadway’s dignified acting roots.
Ed Norton, the capricious method actor who sprouts a hard-on during a love scene plays the charming asshole with ease and porcelain anime doll Emma Stone is superb as the recovering addict who plays Keaton’s underachieving insightful daughter.
Hardly a drop of blood spills in this film, which is a huge departure for this iconic Mexican director who killed off more than his share of people and dogs in past films. Iñárritu films the story in what seems to be one continuous take to give the real-time sensation of the tumultuous days leading up to opening night. Whatever his reason is, the long flowing takes are seamlessly choreographed. I felt myself floating through the rehearsals from a red velvet seat only twenty feet from centre stage. Ironically, the New Yorker is the only publication to give it an annoying art-fraud review, citing overt thefts from Jean Luc Godard’s earlier works.
Artistic theft is the birthright of every artist since the dawn of entertainment. Birdman is a highly imaginative film that should be embraced for all of it’s not-so-well disguised thefts and it’s inherent contemporary truths.