On Friday I went to see Birdman with a friend from university at the Curzon cinema in Soho (which by the way is probably my favourite cinema in London!). Here is what I thought about it:
Features: A method actor, lots of jazz drumming, a viral video of a man in his underpants, a fight between two people who can’t fight, brilliant acting all round and lots of people coming out of the cinema complaining that they didn’t ‘get it’.
Plot Summary: A washed up actor known for playing an iconic superhero tries to reinvent himself by putting on a show on Broadway.
Thoughts: I feel like this is a really difficult film to review as there is so much to say about it I am at risk of writing an entire essay! Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) seems to have split the opinions of my friends who have seen it and of those coming out of the cinema I was at. I get why lots of people are complaining about not ‘getting it’ as it is definitely not a conventional mainstream film. In fact, as I saw it, the whole point of Birdman was that it went out of its way to criticise a lot of the films that are commercially successful. This was one huge swipe at the likes of Michael Bay and the countless superhero sequels with little substance. There is even a pretty explicit reference to the Spiderman musical which was on Broadway near the end. This was partly why I really enjoyed it, because it was really interesting to watch. The film is able to criticise how empty a lot of the money-making blockbusters are for not caring about art when making films, while also criticising much of the theatre world and its critics for being snobby and pretentious (Edward Norton’s over the top method acting and the judgemental theatre critic who writes reviews without even seeing the plays first for example).
I loved the irony of the once-Batman Michael Keaton playing an actor known for being a superhero but trying desperately to be taken seriously, and of Edward Norton , a known method actor, playing someone who takes their method acting a bit too far. Both actors, by the way, are absolutely incredible in this film, as is Emma Stone. There is one particular scene in which Emma Stone’s character launches into a rant where she particularly shines. You will know the scene I am referring to if you have seen the film.
Even though one of the overriding themes of Birdman is struggle and failure – failed acting, failed parenting, failed relationships, failed rehabilitation – the film still manages to have some genuinely funny moments to lighten the mood. There was also some great dialogue and a couple of memorable lines – some personal favourites being Michael Keaton’s worry that he will forever be the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question and nothing else, and Lindsay Duncan’s character revealing her snobbery by telling Riggan he is not an actor but just a celebrity.
Note: I won’t pretend I understand the technical elements of the film in any detail as I’m not a film critic and have never studied film. I did however, think it was quite cool that it was filmed as if it was in one take as it took us backstage and showed us some of the chaos of running the show.
All in all I really enjoyed this film, even though lots of people I have spoken to absolutely detested it. I realise there are so many elements that I haven’t gone into but, as I said at the beginning, it was difficult to know where to start! I have only included a couple of the things that made it a hit for me!
Have you seen Birdman? What did you think? I would love to discuss this with someone. How do you guys think it will do at the Academy Awards this year?