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Movie Review: Birdman (2015)

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Starring – Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan.

Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

It must be frustrating for actors who are typecast in specific roles or forever in the shadow of a particular role. Some actors can break away and move on whiles for some it hurts their careers (Adam West & Mark Hamill spring to mind). When I look at the cast, it’s hard to ignore the fact that most of the actors have been involved in superhero movies before. Keaton is the obvious one as Batman, but you’ve got Hulk (Norton), Gwen Stacy (Ryan) and Jet Girl (Watts).  I don’t know if that’s intentional or by just pure coincidence but it certainly got my attention that’s for sure.

Michael Keaton is Riggan Thomson, a washed up Hollywood actor famous for his role as Birdman which spanned three blockbuster films over 20 years ago. It’s a role that’s dogged his career. Riggan hopes to revive his career by writing, directing and starting in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story “What we talk about when we talk about love”. The play is produced by Riggan’s best friend and lawyer Jake (Galifianakis), girlfriend Laura (Riseborough), Broadway debutant Lesley (Watt) and Riggan’s drug recovering daughter and also his assistant, Sam (Stone).  After a freak accident involving a light falling on a miscast actor, Thomson brings in a talented yet unpredictable method actor, Mike Shiner (Norton) who is a massive hit on Broadway. Mike proves to be difficult to work with and is constantly bemoaning everything that Thomson does which makes Thomson second guess himself whether or not he still has it in him to be an actor anymore. While all of that is going one, Thomson is struggling mentally and is constantly tormented by the voice of Birdman, and imagines himself doing small feats of levitation and telekinesis. Everything is on the line here for Thomson as he tries to reclaim his former glory and prove to everyone that he’s not some washed up actor of the past

Fantastic. Loved it. The story was so true to life with the way the acting industry works where everyone has an ego or people are trying to stab each other in the back for the sake of getting that one big role. There’s this one scene where Keaton’s character is talking about turning down the chance to do Birdman 4 back in the 90’s, if you pay attention he’s basically talking about the time he turned down Batman Forever. That was so clever. Michael Keaton and Edward Norton were the stand out performers. It’s hard to pick one over the other as they were evenly matched in terms of performance. Norton was great in his role as the dickhead who also provided the comic relief from time to time, whiles Keaton has the weight of the world on his shoulders and bordering on the line of insanity.  Somehow, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki makes the film look like it was shot in a single take. He deserves a ton of credit for that. It reminds me so much of Donnie Darko with Birdman haunting Thomson by reminding him at every opportunity that he should give it all up and bring Birdman back to the big screen.

Brilliantly acted, sharply written and astoundingly shot, this black comedy of a drama is almost certainly in the pipe line for Oscar glory

A great start for the movie business in 2015.

Rating: ***** (Top of the pops)

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