Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

**** out of ****

Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a zany dark comatic-dramedy about the crisis of a movie star trying to find a prestigious comeback in the spotlight of Broadway theater. He is played by none other than Michael Keaton, and in this universe, he is best-known as the guy who "used to be Birdman."

As chaos plagues his production, he drifts in and out of reality as a shadow version of himself, resembling this superhero he once played, tries to instill a sense of delusional confidence. Tonally, I would compare this film to P.T. Anderson's Punch Drunk Love.

Meanwhile his friends, family and colleagues follow him around the theater. His recovering addict daughter, played by Emma Stone, works in the theater as his angry personal assistant. Zach Galifianakis is his nervous Lawyer. Edward Norton -is a highly praised actor with a terrible reputation for his backstage behavior. Naomi Watts is an actress coping with the anxiety of her broadway debut. Amy Ryan plays his ex-wife, who visits occasionally. 

Behind all the madness of the content, there is an engaging method that makes it all worthwhile. The bulk of it is featured in TWO TAKES. The camera drifts in and out of rooms, buildings and even implies time-transitions without cuts. Every actor remembers their lines and hits their marks reminding us of the urgency in theater. 

This is not just the directorial ambition of Iñárritu, who is possibly daring the cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki to outdo the work done for their friend, Alfonso Cuarón with Gravity and Children of Men -or capture the hallucinatory terror of the drifting perspective seen in Enter the Void -or even approach the monumental all-in-one-take movie, Russian Ark. He's trying to make the anger, anxiety and hilarity effective. It really works.

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