In my late, limping Don Quixote style quest to view the Oscar nominees, last night I saw Birdman starring Michael Keaton.
This movie has gotten a lot of buzz since it premiered. Michael Keaton has not made a movie in several years. According to his interviews, he chose this script because he liked it and its ironic relationship to his actual career.
Keaton plays Riggin Thomson, a former movie actor, famous for playing the superhero, Birdman. Okay, Keaton played Batman on the screen. His transformation to the ever-present character of Birdman is eerily familiar, probably intentionally so. The bird mask/cowl is similar to his costume for Batman. Also, he uses the deep, graveled voice he used as Batman. The main costume difference for Birdman is a pair of large wings with which he flies.
After years of inactivity and wanting to be taken seriously as an actor, Riggin adapts the stories of his favorite writer to a play, finds a backer, and stages it in NYC. When the film begins, they are in final rehearsals. Riggin, hyper and nervous, attacks the second lead during a run-through. The injured actor has to be hospitalized.
With their preview of the play to be staged the following evening before an invited audience, his co-star, played by Naomi Watts, suggests her husband could step into the role. He's a well-respected actor, so Riggin agrees to cast him.
Enter Edward Norton, an incomparable actor both in real life and in the script, who comes into the play - disrupts the action of the play and ends up seducing Riggin's daughter, played by a luminous Emma Stone.
And that, as they say folks, is only the beginning...
Birdman is a thrill ride of sardonic humor, real pathos, and apparent disconnection to reality.
Keaton is flat-out (sorry my Texas is showing) brilliant. Called upon to display a wide range of emotional responses he delivers every time. He reminded me of what a gifted actor he truly is.
Everyone of the major cast members are up to his challenge. Edward Norton, long-known for his mesmerizing roles, gives us another look at his stellar ability.
Naomi Watts reminds us of her stunning talent with a measured performance as a woman fulminating with conflicting emotions.
Emma Stone, as the dysfunctional daughter newly home from rehab, creates a complicated character with a penchant for perching on the roof of the theater building at night and watching the crowds pass by.
Much of the story takes place in the theatre, primarily backstage going through the winding corridors to enter smoke filled dressing rooms. With the clothing strewn about and props scattered in the mix, I can smell that backstage area. Speaking as someone with years of acting and directing experience, I can tell you the backstage looked and felt authentic. Also, the view from the stage to the filled seats beyond the lights is completely real.
The film made me long for one more role in the theater...you know what they say about the smell of greasepaint...(not to be confused with the wonderful play "The Roar of Greasepaint and the Smell of the Crowd." But that's another another story, entirely...Told you Birdman made me miss the theater...)
Seriously, though, Birdman is a many tiered story that leaves the audience wondering just what is real and what is fantasy. It is a contemporary allegory that is completely entertaining.
Audience members always view any performance through the screen of their individual life experiences.
Birdman offers a rich creation of many levels. Everyone will see something different and enjoy the view.
It's off-beat and hilarious in places with an ending that will leave you either laughing or scratching your head. Check it out.
Keaton is up for Best Actor at the Oscars a week from tonight. Is he better than Bradley Cooper? My answer is he's different in a different kind of role. I want to see Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything before the ceremonies. I hear he's brilliant in that difficult role, not to mention Benedict Cumberbatch...
Gah, so many choices!
Enjoy going to the movies.
Until next time. . .