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I’ll not repeat my previous opinions on the work of Alejandro González Iñárritu. Let’s just say I haven’t seen anything he directed since Babel*.

In his latest, Birdman, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) a washed up actor, most famous for having played the titular superhero in a series of films, produces an adaptation of Raymond Carver on Broadway. It may all be too much for him and he may start to fall apart psychologically. Or does he…?!?!

Touted to stomp all over the awards season this year, it has a fantastic cast, all of whom are spectacular. Hey, even Zach Galifianakis manages to pull of a nuanced and sympathetic performance here. There’s Emma Stone, who should be in everything, as Thomson’s recovering daughter. Edward Norton, is Mike the big name method actor brought in to save the production. And, he is having a whale of a time. It’s a reminder of why he’s so highly regarded. Special mention should also be made of Lindsay Duncan, the villain of the piece. Maybe. Having a great old time wicked-witching critics. But, of course, it’s Keaton that’s central to this and by toutatis he brings his A-game. Best summation of this is the fact that the implied joke in casting him is only a consideration outside of the movie. It doesn’t cross your mind while watching it.

There’s a series of side-plots thrown in that just seem to be there as a sop to the stature of the some of the cast. But, they are purely that; asides. They serve no real purpose to the movie. While we all want to see Andrea Riseborough and Naomi Watts get it on, it seems an unnecessary diversion. Albeit brief. The flirting of Stone and Norton’s characters, however, is completely extraneous and extended. While I’d love to see the two of them (even these characters) have a movie to themselves, for me it rang just wrong within the narrative.

The film has the conceit of being all one continuous shot. The fact that this is impossible, just adds to the fractured sense throughout the film. But, it’s wonderfully disorientating and slightly (bad) trippy. This is down to some amazing work by cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki. Don’t expect subtlety. While it may not seem to be the barnstormer of Gravity (his previous film), there are still some moments of “Woooo! I’ve never seen that before”. It’s pretty lush. All of this underpinned by a tumbling jazz-drum solo soundtrack. Which adds to the sense of disorientation that pervades the entire film.

As with all Iñárritu’s movies, this is not as profound as it wants to be. All of it’s depth is just surface. It doesn’t hold up to longer examination. Ultimately, it’s just a comedy. And, it’s really funny. I’m still planning on going to see it again.

*If you follow that link, I can only apologies for the garbled mess of that blog. Read it in an angry, drunk Scottish voice and it might work.


Written by Tony Kiernan

07 January 2015 at 8:24 am

Posted in Film

One Response

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  1. […] were others. The Oscar fair being particularly good. (Birdman, Whiplash, Foxcatcher.) A couple of brilliantly acted indies; Missippi Grind and 99 Homes. […]

    2015 |

    30 December 2015 at 5:42 pm

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