Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Birdman Review

'You're a washed up comic-strip character'

 Birdman or The unexpected Virtue of Innocence is a black comedy about washed up superhero franchise star Riggan (Michael Keaton) as he struggles to launch a Broadway theatre show in the hopes to reignite his career and reclaim his past relevance, while battling his past demons and his ego.

I'm going to start off by saying I've anticipated this film since last November, and so was disappointed to find that it was nothing but pretentious drama. I wanted to like it, I really did try, it just felt like it was trying far too hard to be something clever and different. The parallels between Keaton/Batman and Riggan/Birdman are so blindingly obvious that the film's attempts to be meta and self-referential just feel self-indulgent and tedious.

Throughout the entire film there isn't a single sympathetic or even remotely likeable character to be found. Furthermore, the film feels cold with no apparent palpable emotional connections evident, only serving to further distance and alienate its audience. Satirical and witty it most definitely was, but at no point did I feel truly immersed in the story enough to properly care about any of it.

Performance-wise, Keaton and Norton put in blandly average performances, and at times I almost felt like they were simply playing exaggerated versions of themselves. Keaton's character is constantly seen to be endlessly and tirelessly chasing relevance throughout the entirety of the film, and this is reflected in the camera work, with director Iñárritu avoiding cuts until his character eventually opens his eyes and finds enlightenment. Admittedly I found the film's visual direction to be quite clever and meaningful, it's just a shame that its performances didn't quite match up. The performance that probably stood out the most to me was that of Emma Stone as Riggan's daughter Sam. Straight out of rehab, Sam is feisty, and displays a brutal honesty compounded with a dark humour that Stone portrays tremendously onscreen. She truly puts in the most believably raw and possibly underrated performance of the entire film, particularly in a heated scene between herself and Keaton about midway through.

However, for the most part, the film still felt emotionally hollow. There were some impressive shots and beautiful visuals, but unfortunately that's all I took away from this exaggerated Oscar-bait picture. Despite its story essentially serving as a portrait of a broken man on a quest to reclaim his recognition and acceptance in a world obsessed with celebrity, the film completely lacks heart. What could have been an emotionally stirring fable on the fickleness of fame ended up feeling more like a pretentious ego boost for its director, with Riggan's ego battle mirroring Iñárritu's self-importance.

I'm mainly disappointed that this film was unable to live up to the promise of its star-studded cast. Much in the same way its characters' fell victim to the expectations put towards them, the film also faltered. Well, that is against my expectations. Though regardless of what I think, the film has become a critical hit with almost everyone expressing either appreciation or love for what has been dubbed a 'Masterpiece'. Obviously I couldn't agree less, feeling completely unsatisfied by the film's lack of explanation. Not only that but the film as a whole has a pretty depressing and chatty feel to it, and I found it peculiar and exhausting to watch. The core premise and casting was inspired, it's just unfortunate that the film itself failed to deliver. On its performance at the Oscars? Only time will tell, though despite my personal feelings towards it, I reckon it still stands a very good chance at winning Best Picture.

I'd be interested to hear if anyone else had similar thoughts to my own, if so tweet me @laurenelucy.