starring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts
written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo
directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is an actor made famous by a series of bird-costumed superhero film he made many years ago. Those days are over but Riggan, plagued by memories and fantasies of his celebrity, is still a working actor. In Birdman Riggan is readying a theatrical adaptation of Raymond Carver’s 1981 short story collection, What we talk about when we talk about love. It’s a brave attempt to show the world that he is a serious actor. But he has a lot of Birdman detritus on his back to live down, or carry with grace.
Birdman is rather intense. It shows live stage actors in their environment rehearsing the play for a series of previews before its official opening. Zach Galifianakis play’s Riggan’s longsuffering producer/agent/lawyer/friend, Jake. The stress of the production is phenomenal, almost enough to make the pair sweat blood: the need for money; the need for a new headline co-star at the last minute; the expectation of bad reviews that could kill the play before it has a chance to recoup any of its production costs, etc. It’s intense. Mike shiner (Edward Norton) is hired as a replacement co-star after a stage accident injures an actor during rehearsal. Shiner is potentially a great asset. But he is also a very loose cannon. He has the potential singe-handedly to make the play succeed or to destroy it. He`s annoying as hell, but if he does his job seriously without puerile goofing around he should be a powerful stage presence.
I guess the film is a satire about movies, theater, production, casting, etc. I sometimes think I might have liked a career in stage theater - the rehearsals, the hot lights, the intensity, the costumes and makeup, the dust, the lie audience, what I fantasize is the camaraderie among the cast. But then I see a story like this and I think … no.
Riggan is so whacked out with stress that he believes himself to be experiencing levitation and telekinesis. Finally, he brings a real pistol onto the state during opening night during what is supposed to be the climactic suicide scene and he shoots himself in the nose for real. Was he really intending to kill himself? He was so warn out by the stress of the play I wouldn’t blame him. I felt exhausted just watching him cope with all the various theatrical problems that kept springing up like mushrooms. But the surprising effect was praise from New York critics for his devotion to acting and stagecraft. He finally earns respect as a serious actor.