BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)

"Darkly Comic Flights of Fancy and Reality"

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Language
Violence
Sex
Nudity

Summary:

BIRDMAN is a dark comedy with dramatic elements about a former movie star whose most famous role was a Batman-like character named Birdman, and his attempt at a comeback on Broadway. Intricately crafted, with superb performances, BIRDMAN has a strong Romantic worldview driven by its lead character’s self-obsessed determination to rise to stardom again at all costs, with strong foul language, lewd moments and dark themes, and bizarre, unexplained moments.

Review:

BIRDMAN is a dark comedy with elements of drama that follows the story of a former movie star whose most famous role was a Batman-like character named Birdman and his attempt at a comeback on Broadway. BIRDMAN has a strong Romantic worldview driven by its lead character’s self-obsessed determination to rise to stardom again at all costs.

The movie follows the misadventures of Riggan (Michael Keaton), a former blockbuster movie star whose career has fallen on hard times. He is three days away from his attempt at a comeback as director and star of a Broadway play, and his agent (Zach Galifianakis) is out to make it a success at any cost. Meanwhile, Riggan has a mixed-up relationship with his daughter (Emma Stone), who’s frustrated by his downfall from his epic movie-star days playing a superhero named Birdman, but who works as his assistant and keeps a loving eye on him.

Riggan has some obvious mental problems brewing. He hears voices in his head of Birdman, his movie alter-ego, goading him on saying that he should be a worldwide superstar again. He also hears jazz drums crashing in the background all the time. Making matters worse, he’s embittered over the loss of his fame and fantasizes that he has some of Birdman’s superpowers. In fact, the movie sometimes really makes it seem like he has these abilities, such as when he claims he made a giant metal lighting device fall from a ceiling to knock out a terrible actor he’s desperate to replace.

The replacement turns out to be a big young theater star named Mike (Edward Norton), who’s cocky and brash and tries to push people’s buttons in order to draw out stronger performances from them. As Riggan and Mike clash over the rush to opening night, Riggan also has to contend with a reviewer who threatens to destroy his reputation and the play itself. Other things continue to challenge his sanity, including a number of other comical screw-ups, such as getting locked out of the theater wearing only his underwear and having to wander through a packed Times Square before he can find a way back inside. What results over the three days is strange, dark and downright hilarious, nearly costing Riggan his career, family and sanity in the process.

BIRDMAN doesn’t have a lot of plot, as it’s primarily depicting the battle for sanity in Riggan’s head and the battle to regain his reputation in the world. So, it’s a story about a man struggling against himself. The filmmakers wrote it expressly for Michael Keaton, whose own experiences as an onscreen Batman and subsequent rough career path provides fascinating real-life fodder for the movie to satirize.

The fact that Keaton was willing to poke fun at himself and engage in all manner of odd behavioral moments is remarkable. It results in one of the most unique and compelling performances to come down the pike recently. In fact, his performance is being touted as a major Oscar contender. Meanwhile, the movie itself is a constantly fascinating look at the world of acting and celebrity and of tabloid-media culture, as Riggan’s agent Jake seemingly will do almost anything to get Riggan in the news and keep him there.

The rest of the star-studded cast also rises to the occasion and gives rich, fun, full-bodied performances for director Alexander Inarritu (AMORES PERROS, 21 GRAMS and BABEL). BIRDMAN gives him a much-needed, long-overdue chance to lighten up from his prior extremely dark and dramatic movies.

It’s a shame there’s so much foul language in BIRDMAN, because there’s enough of it to distract and detract from greater enjoyment of a fun, original story. BIRDMAN also has some lewd moments, themes of suicide, substance abuse references, and bizarre moments that go unexplained. The movie’s Romantic worldview is driven by its lead character’s self-obsessed determination to rise to stardom again at all costs. Extreme caution is advised.

Content:

(RoRo, C, B, LLL, VV, SS, N, AA, DD, MM) Strong Romantic worldview driven by its lead character’s self-obsessed determination to rise to stardom again at all costs, plus a redemptive, moral scene of forgiveness between man and his ex-wife; at least 110 obscenities and profanities (including many “f” words and some GDs); strong violence includes fantasy scene with character fighting off things that are exploding and shooting at him, slaps, a silly fight between two men rolling around on the floor, gun goes off onstage, and themes of suicide; strong sexual content includes crude comments, man in underwear gets aroused on stage, woman says she’s pregnant out of wedlock, and actor tries to convince actress onstage to have real sex under bedcovers but she refuses so he pretends to do so; rear and upper male nudity; alcohol use and implied abuse; smoking and brief marijuana use; and, arrogance, some characters are self-centered with huge egos, actor acts like a diva, protagonist is often surly and mad at the world, and critic says she plans to trash a play even without seeing it.

In Brief:

A dark comedy, BIRDMAN follows the misadventures of Riggan, a former blockbuster movie star whose career tanked. Riggan is three days away from attempting a comeback as director and star of a Broadway play. Riggan has obvious mental problems brewing. He hears voices in his head of Birdman, his movie alter-ego, goading him into starring again in a superhero movie. Making matters worse, he’s embittered over the loss of his fame and fantasizes that he has some of Birdman’s superpowers. What results over the three days is strange, dark and hilarious, nearly costing Riggan his career, family and sanity in the process.

BIRDMAN is a fascinating look at the world of acting, celebrity and tabloid-media culture. It features a unique, compelling, comical performance by Michael Keaton as the mentally unstable protagonist. There’s so much foul language, however, that it distracts from the movie’s entertainment. BIRDMAN also has some lewd moments, themes of suicide, substance abuse references, and bizarre, unexplained moments. BIRDMAN’S Romantic worldview is driven by the protagonist’s self-obsessed determination to rise to stardom again at all costs. Extreme caution is advised.

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