Is it a bird? Er, kinda...
Release Date: 2 January
15 | 119 minutes Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts
González Iñárritu is a man more known for exploring the darker corners of life with the likes of Amores Perros, Babel and Biutiful. Here, though, while the darkness remains on tap, it’s blended with absurdist comedy and just a hint of fantasy.
Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thompson, an actor who’s trying to escape his superhero career past and reinvent himself by staging a Broadway play. But the stresses and strains of mounting the production – particularly the needy weirdos in the cast and crew – are tipping him ever closer to insanity as his obsession grows.
Keaton is perfect as Thompson, channelling both his own cowldonning past as Batman and his typically twitchy performance style into the portrayal of a man who wishes he’d done more with his professional life, but who just can’t get out of his own way, a situation not helped by his old cinematic alter- ego whispering in his ear. Iñárritu’s direction both grounds the film with Keaton’s central role and sends it soaring, the camera drifting around the theatre and beyond in a way that makes the film look like one continuous shot ( it isn’t, but he manages a convincing facsimile).
And it’s not a one- man show, with fine, neurotic work from Edward Norton and Naomi Watts ( as preening, driven fellow actors), Emma Stone ( as Thompson’s troubled daughter) and Zach Galifianakis, struggling to keep the whole show together as Riggan’s best friend/ producer.
Birdman won’t be for everyone: the swirling camerawork and thrumming jazz percussion soundtrack can be off- putting at times. And if you’re expecting much in the way of superhero action, don’t be fooled by the trailer – that’s extra spice, not the main course and not the focus of the director and his co- writers. In fact, the current pop culture fixation on comic book heroes comes in for plenty of ribbing. But with great acting, unique style and a crawl behind the varied neuroses of the theatrical world, it’s not hard to see why the film is winning so much praise. James White To get the single- shot look, the cast had to perform up to 15 pages of dialogue at a time while hitting precise marks.
“So if Batman is Birdman, who’s the Hulk?”