Film review: Birdman

Danielle Woodward looks at Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, fresh from its Oscar win for Best Picture


Film review: Birdman

Birdman has created mixed reactions to its Best Picture Oscar win. A good film though it is, we’re not sure it deserves an Oscar, but then, it is a story about actors being actors – and Hollywood loves stories about themselves!

The black comedy tells the story of an actor Riggan (Michael Keaton), famous for portraying an iconic superhero, ‘Birdman’, as he struggles to stage a Broadway play, battling his ego and tries to recover his family, his career and himself.

Part of what draws you in is the immediacy of the way the film is shot, mostly with hand-held cameras in what looks like one long take, making you feel that you’re right there with the characters.

Reality and illusion play a big part too; Riggan’s alter-ego Birdman is a constant presence, battling Riggan’s plans, while the theme of success and what being relevant means in the 21st century, recurs throughout.

Riggan’s fresh-from-rehab daughter Sam (Emma Stone) tells her father that he doesn’t exist because he “doesn’t even have a Facebook page” yet later, a video of him walking in his underwear through the streets of New York goes viral and helps cement his career comeback. Stone represents the cynical young generation who are bored so they turn to drugs for excitement, yet she – like everyone else – craves some sort of gratification and meaningful human contact.

At least the actors don’t take themselves too seriously. Lesley (Naomi Watts) is desperate for her big break on Broadway and crying to Riggan’s lover, Laura (Andrea Riseborough), she says, “Why don’t I have any self-respect?” The reply is: “You’re an actress, honey.”

Despite the film’s surrealness and existential nature, there are some hilarious moments – mostly involving Edward Norton – and Michael Keaton is as watchable as he has ever been in his career, especially in this comeback tale that has you rooting for him and remembering how much you loved him way back in his Batman days. Watch it and enjoy!