A much-awaited preview of a Broadway play is in progress. The main actor and director, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) steps out for a smoke. His nerves are a wreck. On stage, everything has been going really well. Till now.
Suddenly, the heavy theatre door behind him bangs shut, locking him out, his robe stuck in the door. What follows, is at once an utterly stressful and sad situation, possibly every stage actor’s worst nightmare.
However, according to his rehab return daughter Sam (Emma Stone),it is a dream come true. His most deeply vulnerable plight has earned him a huge viewership on YouTube.
This is just one of the classiest moments of art versus popularity, pure acting versus costume drama, a one man show versus powerful but meaningless comic book graphics. Of an artist trying to be a real superhero for the last time. Only, he has to fly without the Birdman wings.
All throughout, Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera has unobtrusively followed every actor in a lengthy one take, from the crowded exterior of Times Square to the dark interiors of closed Broadway theatre. Most of the film, with its masterly choreographed camerawork and ‘invisible’ edit, gives the illusion of a complete one take shot film. A rhythmic drumbeat score accompanies most of the action inside the dimly lit corridors of the theatre and builds up its doom like mood.
Coming to the story, Riggan has had more than 24 wild, sleepless hours of torment, made worse by Birdman’s vulture voice haunting him and goading him to be the superman he once was on screen. The upcoming Broadway show is his life or death situation. For he is a desperate actor trying to hold on to his once upon a time stardom when he was known for flying in the skies in his bird costume.
A highly unpredictable and eccentric but talented actor, Mike (Edward Norton) has joined a day before. The guy is capable of anything; from trying to rape an actress live on stage to messing around with the lines to flirting with the director’s daughter.
Birdman is an exquisitely shot and written comedy which makes wicked and sinister fun of the dark side of Hollywood through the snobbish wing view of Broadway. Co-written, directed and produced by Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu (known for Ammores Perros and Babel and first Mexican nominated for an Oscar for direction), the film is delightfully experimental in its surreal treatment.
The lines are insightful…”why don’t I have any self respect?...’because you’re an actress.” Names like George Clooney and Robert Downey Jr are thrown in, with more than sarcastic innuendoes. After all, they are still heroes on screen, unlike the has-been superhero, Birdman.
Michael Keaton as the anxiety ridden hopeless,lost ex star,simply glides through his performance.ButEdward Norton as the wild and obnoxious actor, is the real scene-stealer.
Watch Birdman for its daring flight into satire,imagination and utter insanity of the mind and filmdom and the fragility of ego.Rightly nominated for nine Oscars, it certainly deserves the ones for direction and cinematography.