CAPSULE: Riggan, an actor, is famous for having played the popular but not very challenging role of Birdman several years earlier. Now he is trying to return to artistic integrity by producing and starring in a Broadway play based on a Raymond Carver story. The camera follows him around as he prepares for the play. The film pretends to have been filmed all in one long take, but the seams still show. The film veers perilously close to being pretentious. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
This is a film with somethings to like and a lot not to. My big complaint was that the writing often seemed obscure to me. A film in which I can get through a scene and not be sure what was said I will consider a flawed film.
Consider the title BIRDMAN: OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE). Even the punctuation makes no sense to me. If they removed the colon and moved "Or" into the parenthesis I might agree it was punctuated properly. A parenthesis indicates a side thought that can optionally be dispensed with. Here that would leave the title to be BIRDMAN: OR. And I saw no virtue of ignorance, expected or not.
[Postscript: The punctuation of the title seems different any place one looks. I am using the title chosen for the Internet Movie Data Base. It apparently is different in the film, in the press kit, and in the film poster.]
That said there was some unexpected virtue. It is a look behind the scenes of a Broadway play in preparation. Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is best known as having played the superhero Birdman. These days he is trying to escape the shadow of that role and prove he is a serious artist. He is trying to produce a new play based on a famous (now very famous) short story by Raymond Carver. Everywhere Thomson runs into conflicts of personality. One of Riggan's biggest problems is in dealing with an egotist actor played by Edward Norton.
The film is shot like Hitchcock's ROPE to look like it was filmed in one take. (Neither film really was shot in one take. And the looking for the pulls the viewer out of the film.) Some of this film is fantasy, but most is all too real.
Some of the big ideas about drama and about the viewing public hit home, and some get mired in soap opera. Still it is an audacious attempt to say a lot in a single film. But still for much of this film I am going to say that the emperor *really* has no clothes. Rating: +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2562232/combined
Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2015 Mark R. Leeper