Sunday, February 22, 2015

"Birdman": one-paragraph review

Just saw "Birdman," starring Michael Keaton (eminently watchable), Emma Stone (touchingly soulful), Zach Galifianakis (surprisingly restrained), Edward Norton (hilariously egomaniacal), Andrea Riseborough (remarkably arch), Naomi Watts (endearingly delicate), and Amy Ryan (depressingly world-weary). Wow. This movie is probably about as close as cinema can get to mimicking a live-theater experience. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu ("21 Grams," "Babel") and his cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, have done amazing work in bringing to life the story of a has-been action-movie star who, in a desperate bid for legitimacy and validation, decides to direct and star in a stage play based on Raymond Carver's short story, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." Keaton stars as Riggan Thomson—neurotic, driven, helpless, commanding, and probably insane. Half of the movie seems to be an hallucination; sometimes the story plays like a family drama; sometimes it plays like a black comedy, albeit one without any true laugh-out-loud moments. Instead, as with a good Robert Altman film, there are sly references to stars and films and tropes that you've seen before; and as with a good Terry Gilliam film, there are trippy flights of fancy accompanied by a sweeping, "Brazil"-style orchestral score. I wouldn't recommend "Birdman" for anyone other than theater lovers because I think it's primarily theater lovers who are going to "get" the film, in all its New Yawkish glory. It's a drama, it's a comedy, it's a parody, and in its final moments, I guess it's safe to say it's something of an uplifting mystery. I can see why the movie has garnered so much critical praise, even as its ratings from the hoi polloi are in the 3.2-star doldrums. This isn't really a movie for the general public, but as I said, it's definitely for lovers of the stage. If you're that kind of animal, you'll be blown away. As I was.


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