Marvel and DC have proven that big blockbuster action movies do very well. People love to watch larger than life characters fight even larger villains in scenes that cause plenty of chaos. These movies have actors who don’t really put on a performance that would be worth an Oscar nod, but they make multi-million dollar paychecks for swinging their fists in front of a green screen. Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is the story of an actor who used to play one of these superhero characters, but is striving to create a “real” acting tour de force.
Riggan Thomson (played wonderfully by Michael Keaton) is a has-been Hollywood actor who made his name by playing superhero Birdman. He wants to reinvent himself and make himself relevant again by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play. During the production of the play, Thomson hears the voice of Birdman ridiculing him. Birdman tells him he’s not a Broadway star and he should go back to being Birdman and make millions of dollars again, but Thomson wants to show that he’s an actor.
The cast in this film is absolutely brilliant. Each character is portrayed perfectly by the cast. As said earlier, the perfectly casted Keaton absolutely shines as the once-famous Thomson/Birdman. Riggan’s girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough) plays the part of a neglected partner very well, as does Naomi Watts as Lesley. Edward Norton plays Mike, a method actor who only really “lives” when he’s on stage. Norton knocks his performance out of the park. He is cocky when it’s about the play but when Riggan’s daughter Sam (played wonderfully by Emma Stone) starts getting personal with him, he is vulnerable and unsure. The main cast is rounded out with Zack Galifianakis playing Riggan’s lawyer and best friend.
During the movie, Riggan does some supernatural things. Things such as busting lightbulbs in his dressing room, spinning a lighter on a counter, and allegedly dropping a stage light on an actor’s head. The movie is also shot in a way that seems like it’s all done in one take. It puts the movie on a very surreal level. You may not know what is real or not, even though you’re always following someone. It’s like a very well done magic trick.
There are two themes that run throughout this movie. The first theme is relevance. Everyone wants to be known for something great. In this day and age of social media and viral videos, it’s hard to be on top. But everyone wants that feeling. We all want to be known for something great. That’s what Riggan is trying to do with his play and with his life. He wants to be known as an actor, not Birdman. Not just Riggan, though. Everyone in the film wants to shine in their own way.
The other theme is about love. The name of the play Riggan wrote is called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. Each character is looking for their own kind of love, but their definitions of what love is differs. To Riggan, love is adoration. To Mike, love is being on stage. To Laura, love is compliments and attention. Each person has to find their version of love, and it takes a while for them to finally feel that deeply desired emotion.
Birdman is a funny, yet dramatic piece of cinema that everyone should watch. The cast shines in a unique film directed superbly by Alejandro G. Inarritu. The movie is released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 17th, so pick it up at the store or through Redbox.