AS I write, I hear the news that “Birdman” has garnered this year’s longest list of Oscar nominations. I’m not surprised. It’s a cracker of a film, packed with subtleties exploring, for example, the crassness of blockbuster movies, the fragility of celebrity, how wit differs from slapstick, indeed the whole wonderful range of the building blocks of storytelling.
Mexican writer/director Alejandro G. Iñárritu sets his film in New York’s St James Theatre the day before former movie star Riggan will open the play he has written and stars in, adapting a Raymond Carver short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”.
Riggan’s self esteem needs resurrection. He hasn’t worked for two decades since playing the super-hero of the Hollywood fantasy blockbuster “The Birdman 3”.
When his leading man suffers an incapacitating accident, the method actor replacing him (Edward Norton) wants to stamp his ideas on the production. His daughter (Emma Stone) has issues. The day before the play opens, a newspaper critic (Lyndsay Duncan) has already decided to destroy it.
These and other misfortunes drive this powerful film. Its unrestrained vocabulary connects powerfully with its disasters. Many of its comic moments need uncovering from beneath layers of concurrent elements. The editing is brilliant, mostly done in camera, bespeaking immaculate planning and razor-sharp timing.
And upholding it all is Michael Keaton playing Riggan. It’s a performance to savour while in progress and remember long after the house lights come up.
At all cinemas