Jan 17, 2015

Movie Review: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) [2014]

Birdman is a type movie that does not impress until I watch it, because there are films that grab my attention from the very fist teaser. However, it got my heart the moment I finished it and realized how genuinely original and masterfully done it was. 

Alejandro González Iñárritu's new film is a story of a washed-up actor Riggan (Michael Keaton), who once played an iconic superhero Birdman and now he has to overcome his ego, family trouble, relationship and reclaim past glory, by directing a Broadway play. Ongoing financial problems make it harder to find a proper lead actor for the play.

First thoughts about Birdman - how crazy it is to cast Keaton, who played Batman in two films, as a widely loved superhero. And especially, when his career was also faded for such a long time. Nevertheless the true masterful acting, it's been a good catch. The same time, Birdman is not an easy movie to review, it's just an experience you should feel by watching the film, because if I start describing what's going on there, you'll never get the enjoyment I had during almost two hours.

But Birdman is brilliant for so many reasons. Let's begin with Keaton who did a performance of his career. He is always in between many layers of his character: sometimes genius, sometimes on the edge of mental breakdown and personal disorder and sometimes a hardworking artist. And he is perfectly introducing all sides of Riggan, who still thinks that he is the superhero once everyone loved.
Birdman, as we may call the alter ego, the past of Riggan, constantly reminds Michael's character that he can easily reclaim past glory, all he needs is to go out, forget everything he does and just become Birdman once again. On the other hand, Riggan, who still believes to be a hero in the bottom of his heart, does not want to give a try, he keeps refusing until a new lead actor Mike (Edward Norton) joins his cast and messes his work up.

Obviously, Riggan has no superpowers, he can not fly or move subjects with his mind, these all, including Birdman, is inside his head. Do not believe any person telling that all these are real. Two simple fact from film witness that it's just an imagination. First, when Riggan is alone in the room, camera shows that he moves objects without a physical connection and the moment anyone comes in, that person sees how Riggan actually throws those objects. Second, after the "flying" scene, we see a taxi driver who chases Keaton's character asking why he did not pay for the service. It means, he never flew, he just draw a cab.

Speaking about flying scene, once again, great job Emmanuel Lubezki, whose camera work just made every scene unbelievably enjoyable. Especially, the one, where Riggan believes he flies through New York skyscrapers. But honestly, every other scene had a great beauty in it. The stage scenes, with thunderstorms is a great example of perfect work with lights.
The rest of Oscar and SAG nominee cast is no less good as lead. Edward Norton as an eccentric actor, who tries to get the control over play, is amazing, entertaining and witty. His scenes are so dynamic, weird and funny. So is Emma Stone, who is my favorite in this film. Her portrayal of Riggan's troubled daughter Sam is the best job she's done so far.

Truly best part of Birdman is the job Iñárritu did for this film, both directing and writing. The idea itself is beyond originality. Story as a whole is wonderful focusing on so many things, while dialogues, character and scenes are both complex and interesting. He as a director managed to craft a movie that will make you think and enjoy your movie going experience. I don't think any other person could do it better to show what is going in the mind of main character. Birdman has also one of the best endings I've seen so far. The scene where Sam looks up in the window and smiles, as if she saw her father.

A lot discussions have been about this controversial ending. Even director was asked and he obviously left the question open for interpretation. One definite thing we can say is that, Riggan did not fly, so Sam did not see him in the air. It would be just out of logic. Alejandro used "flying" as an metaphor of freedom, of chasing dreams, of doing whatever you want. Everything about superhero Birdman was an indication of personal liberty, escaping from reality that killed, consumed Riggan. Having said that, final scene should be interpreted that he finally did what he wanted to to, broke out and reclaimed the freedom.

But how did he do it? If we consider that he disappeared from window, then it might mean he killed himself. This idea would be true if we remember the stage scene where Riggan, by mistake (?) shoots a gun, in nose. So, if he committed a suicide, why is Sam smiling? Metaphorically, this should mean that finally, she was seeing her father as he always saw himself and wanted other to see: important, still strong, beloved and a person who matters.

So, I more go with suicide, because disappearing from the window can not be imaginary, but imaginary is what happens later: Sam first looks down, and sees her father dead, then looks up to show that she finally got Riggan the way he always wanted to be perceived.

In conclusions, Birdman is one of the best works this year in every sense. It succeeds to create an interesting story, being perfectly acted, directed and written.

So, what do you think of Birdman's ending? Share some thoughts



At Jan 17, 2015, 7:17:00 PM , Anonymous Brittani said...

Excellent review! This is easily my favorite of the year, tied with Gone Girl. I just love it so much.

At Jan 17, 2015, 7:19:00 PM , Anonymous Nika said...

Thanks Brittani. It's in all my top lists this year. I was surprisingly charmed by this film.


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