Birdman is an example of film as an art. Starring Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts and Edward Norton, Birdman tells the story of a washed up movie star trying to make it on Broadway. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.
As a story about a play, Birdman feels like a play. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu has created a world that we as the audience observe but still feel a part of. That’s because aside from a couple cuts at the beginning, the whole movie plays as one continuous shot.
And it is a stunning thing to watch. The movie just feels more personal when the audience is almost part of the action. The audience is never a character, but the camera is always close enough to the characters to give the impression the audience is right there too. It’s an incredible achievement in itself that Iñárritu was able to keep the illusion going for a full two-hour movie.
Of course how the movie looks wouldn’t matter if the script were terrible. And in Birdman the script is almost as exciting as the tracking shots. Every character gets big monologues that deliver strong commentary on the current state of cinema and movie stardom.
One particular monologue from Emma Stone’s Sam stood out. In it, she confronts her father, Michael Keaton’s Riggan, about his failed movie career. Stone goes all in for this specific scene and it is mesmerizing to watch. The emotion the actors put into their roles adds a lot to the complex dialogue, which intentionally is supposed to mirror the play that they are putting on.
All the performances are great, but Edward Norton’s stands out. He plays an accomplished Broadway actor who is either obsessed with his craft or full of himself. The performance is so good; it’s never really clear what side he is on. And he brings such a loud and aggressive style of acting to the role that he steals every scene he is in.
An intense drum score is pretty much all the music heard in the movie. And it helps emphasize the big moments, in a similar way to a play uses music to really build the scene. It’s a subtle highlight but an important one.
The film asks some interesting questions about what makes things viral and what makes things popular. Ironically, the movie is banking on becoming a hit and winning a bunch of awards.
But I’ll allow that. Because Birdman is so damn entertaining that I hope everyone goes and see it. Chances are you haven’t seen a film made this way and it will amaze you what Iñárritu is able to do, both in the script and with the visuals.
This movie will be a major player in the awards races too. It’s that good.