Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton from “Need For Speed“) was Birdman, like 20 years ago, in three successful and beloved feature films. As an actor, and as a man, he has struggled to shed the feathers that made him famous. He can’t walk down the street without being recognized – though he knows it’s because he was a guy in a suit and not because of his talent.
His latest effort to show the world the real Riggan is a play he writes, directs and stars in that is going to open on Broadway in a few days. His lawyer friend Jake (Zach Galifianakis from “Are You Here“) tries to keep the production and Riggan from falling apart. The day before previews, an actor has to be replaced and they are thrilled to get the amazing Mike Shiner (Edward Norton from “The Grand Budapest Hotel“). Mike is a method actor, and while he brings great talent to the production his method is to piss everyone off and make it all about him, as opposed to the rebirth and revalidation of Riggan Thomson.
This play and Riggan’s life are a train wreck that may never leave the station. Riggan is like that guy who played the Lone Ranger, who finds it hard to take off the mask and give up his alter ego. This plays out amongst a gaggle of theater people who struggle with their own facades.
Director/writer Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Biutiful”) employs the continuous shot gimmick, though it serves the story well. It draws you in and won’t let you go, much like the Birdman gimmick has a hold of Riggan. You have to go back to “Sunset Blvd.” (Billy Wilder, 1950) to find a better portrayal of how Hollywood discards its icons. Riggan believes he can be the phoenix and rise from the ashes of his career if he can just scrape the stench of Birdman off his shoe.
This is not a “feel good” movie where the hero comes through in the end. Nobody feels good in this movie. This is a descent into one man’s darkness as he struggles with the demon he created and the collateral damage of his life.
This kind of exploration is not pretty, but like the four-car pile-up on the interstate, we can’t look away, and still, we hope somebody survived. For that I must give this movie 4 ½ stars out of 5. Some dreams are more fragile than others, especially when they are just about to take flight, and you hope they survive.
Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site: http://bashmovies.wordpress.com