“Birdman” soars at the cinema

Jacob Stocking ‘15

Reviews editor

4 Stars

Michael Keaton is haunted by Birdman.

Michael Keaton is haunted by Birdman.

Ever get tired of seeing the same generic movies at the theater? Do you long for something that’s just a little bit different from the usual selection of movies at the show? If so, “Birdma” is the movie for you.

“Birdman” tells the story of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), an actor known for playing the fictional superhero Birdman 20 years before the film takes place. Riggan is only known for Birdman, and he has been trying to get out of its shadow for years. His last effort to do so is by writing, directing, and starring in a theatrical production of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” to prove he is a serious actor.

The casting of Michael Keaton (who famously played Batman in the early ‘90s) was no doubt done to parallel the real-life troubles Keaton experienced in his post-Batman film career. Keaton also doubles as “Birdman,” the voice inside Riggan’s head that speaks to him throughout the film, representing his own inability to get away from his most famous role.

Unfortunately for Riggan, the show’s production is plagued by issues from the first minute. One of the actors is replaced by the narcissistic control freak Mike Schier (Edward Norton), a man who is so obsessed with making his acting “real” that he crosses several boundaries. Another source of conflict for Riggan is dealing with his family, particularly his daughter, played by Emma Stone who gives the best performance I’ve ever seen out of her. Zack Galifianakis (playing the straight man for once), Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, and Amy Ryan round out the rest of the key cast.

One of the most interesting aspects of the movie is the utterly unique cinematography. The film is shot to look like it is one unbroken long take (as in there are no camera cuts or scene transitions). Obviously clever editing and camera trickery hides the fact that it isn’t one long take, but it still makes for a very unique-looking and presented movie. The actors are shot in extreme close-ups, so you get every detail and expression on their faces. This technique helps focus on them and brings all the attention to their stellar performances.

Another interesting aspect of the production is the soundtrack, or rather, the lack of one. The only music in the film is a man playing drums, which may sound odd, but it works very well. It provides a wide range from lighthearted cymbal playing to intense pounding at tense moments. A strange choice indeed, but it pays off well.

“Birdman” is not without its faults, unfortunately. Some of the scenes feel rather unnecessary, though perhaps their purpose becomes more obvious on a second viewing. Also, the film telegraphs the ending a little too hard. I had basically figured out where it was going halfway through due to some very heavy foreshadowing. Also, the drum- based soundtrack could be very grating for some people. Also, the fact that the film is a dark comedy without having many obvious “jokes” might upset some audiences. The humor is derived mostly from the situations the characters are involved in and the problems they are facing.

Overall, I would recommend everyone check out “Birdman”. It’s one of the most interesting movies out right now, and one of the year’s most unique. It is an excellent character study fleshed out by wonderful actors, and has some great cinematography. I give “Birdman” four stars out of five.