Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galafanakis, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Merritt Weaver
Directed By: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
I have to learn how to spell Inarritu without having to look it up, because it is very likely I’ll be spelling it a lot over the coming months. Birdman is everything you’ve heard it is. One of the best movies of the year, a shoo in for a Best Picture nomination, and the frontrunner for Best Actor for star Michael Keaton. But what it should most be remembered as is the film most likely to win Best Director this year, because if anyone deserves that honor, it is Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
The whole film is shot to feel like it was done in one take. There are no breaks between scenes. The camera motion is fluid, following one character then another if needed. It’s a daring take, one that works brilliantly. Directors so rarely take bold risks that Birdman feels groundbreaking because of it. We have seen it before, just not very often.
The film is anchored by a truthful performance by Michael Keaton, who plays an actor who became famous for playing a super hero, and is now starring in a project as a has-been trying to be taken seriously in his craft. Keaton has always wanted to be taken seriously, and has even come close with films like My Life, The Paper, and Jackie Brown. But his star faded, and more recently he’s been seen in whatever will pay him. Casting Keaton in Birdman is perfect, even if it isn’t quite the bounce back that Mickey Rourke had for The Wrestler.
The supporting cast is strong. Edward Norton is annoyingly good as a smarmy actor who thinks he knows everything. Emma Stone is solid as the snarky, damaged daughter who lived in the shadow of Birdman. Naomi Watts also turns in a noticeable performance as an insecure actress. All three of them are good, but have a hard time topping Keaton. Heck, I even thought Zach Galafanakis was good in an atypical straight performance.
Birdman is going to get awards attention, and if you’re the type of person who likes seeing all the films before Oscar night, then I’ll have no problem convincing you to see Birdman. But for everyone else, this is a damn near perfect film, one of the best of the year, and Michael Keaton is incredible in it. What more could you ask for?
FINAL GRADE: A