By Riley Coven
I think people use terms like “amazing” and “incredible” too often. I’ve heard things described with these words before that definitely didn’t deserve it. I’ve caught myself calling a doughnut amazing. And yeah, it was pretty good, but it wasn’t awe-inspiring or world changing or anything. I enjoyed it but it didn’t really affect me in any profound way. But with all that being said, Alejandro Iñárritu’s “Birdman”, was absolutely amazing. It was incredible. I have not been blown away by a movie like this in a long time, if ever. And maybe this is just my knee-jerk reaction to the film but I think this is a review I’ll stand by for years to come.
Going into the film I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The trailers made it look entirely different than what the final product ended up being, and while it was still a fully fleshed out and entertaining film, the styles and challenges to the form were astonishing throughout. For instance, the entire film is shot as one long take. As in they don’t cut. Ever. A film that I thought used a similar style very effectively was “Gravity’ but even they cut their shots every once in a while.
I kept wondering how it would be possible to change locations using this style, but Iñárritu made it work. Characters were able to maintain their personal spaces better, the reveals throughout the film were so much more powerful, and the cinematography didn’t lose any of the weight it carried. I was absolutely amazed. Last year Alfonso Cuarón was awarded the Academy Award for Best Director for his revolutionary visual technique in Gravity. I think this year’s award should be gift wrapped with a bow for Iñárritu. Challenges to style aren’t easy, let alone finding the ones that can still maintain an effective film. Iñárritu not only was able to do both, but he set the standard for them.
Another aspect of the film that really stood out to me was the acting. Michael Keaton gave an especially incredible performance. His character, Riggan Thomson, is an eerie parallel to Keaton himself.
Both once famed actors known for their role as an iconic winged superhero, they are now in the limelight of their careers. While I am oddly not close enough personal friends with Keaton to be able to relay if his private life is similar to Thompson’s, I hope it isn’t. Keaton’s portrayal of this demented, depressed and possibly insane man is one that is bittersweet. It’s such an amazing performance, but it’s still one that can make your heart heavy and bring a tear to your eye.
It’s impossible not to empathize with Riggan as he tries, with everything he has, to succeed in a world that has forgotten him. Hopefully Keaton knows that he is still just as beloved, at least by me.
“Birdman” or (“The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”) is a film that comes around once in a very long time. Not often do directors have the guts to do what Iñárritu has done, but even more rarely do they pull it off.