I really wanted to like Birdman, and after watching the film, I’ll say it’s decent. The genius of this film asks alot to be appreciated, Inarritu’s ‘one-take’ style is remarkable and seamless, Michael Keaton was exceptional and the style is eccentric and multi-layered with comedy and drama. It’s definitely not a tour de force as some might call it, because the art that is employed in Birdman seems forced. The way we approach the film is garbled, because are we to take it as a satire on the acting industry? Or to find the dark humour in the degradation of our protagonist? Celebrate the small redemption that Riggan finds (his play succeeds) but pity that he has lost the greater fight for love, acceptance and self-worth? If dark humour is not your cup of tea, finding enlightenment in the film is frustrating. I’ll give my take on this weird eccentric eclectic mix of styles called Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance.See how ridiculous that sentence was? Birdman is ridiculous like that, but also quite brilliant.
Michael Keaton’s Riggan is so multi-faceted, I’m not surprised that he’s a strong contender for Best Actor this year. The existential crisis that Riggan faces is his loss and displacement of self-worth. Of course, he tries to fight for love and acceptance too. Riggan’s former Birdman persona still haunts him from time to time through internal monologues. Ironically, that which destroys him also gives him a sense of self worth because the birdman persona constantly reminds him of the glory days of past but ultimately makes Riggan deluded. Riggan’s clinging on to his birdman persona is terrifyingly poignant,like a drug, he escapes the harsh realities of his irrelevancy by living in his disillusioned Birdman self.
Shot with stream of consciousness (where scenes are made to look natural and flowing from scene to scene,almost like the conscious stream of events), there is an obvious quality of immediacy in Birdman. This is ironically used to narrate events that ensue in the film showing Riggan engaging in hallucinations, self-destruction, fights and mental breakdowns- Most of these are filled with some insidiously humourous undertone. The style of immediacy makes Riggan’s life a caricature, as if there is huge significance to every part of Riggan’s life. In actual fact, the sad reality is that Riggan has already lost faith in his own significance and relevancy. I suppose this poignant irony wraps the movie nicely,with both technical detail from Inarritu and characterization of Riggan that finds Birdman success in dark humour.
I’ll end the review off with some thoughts on the last scene where Riggan’s daughter Sam(Emma Stone) looks down briefly in shock after concluding that Riggan has jumped off the window, then looks up and smiles in wonder. In my view, this scene encapsulates the essence of the film. Yeah it might seem like a forced ‘gimmicky’ ending by Inarritu, simply giving an ambiguous ending for ambiguity’s sake. Despite this, it keeps in line with the movie theme in the spirit of black comedy. In my view, Sam does realize for the slightest moment that her dad has died, but because she is unable to accept his death, she hallucinates that he turnes into birdman, soaring up above. After all, Sam’s struggle with her life and drugs is evident throughout the film. And after going through many ordeals in her fragile life, this interpretation is reasonable. The unexpected virtue of ignorance applies to Sam as well, escaping reality like her father.
Rating: 8/10 It’s message could be garbled to some and it’s methods may be forced, but overall, Birdman is an impressive in technical detail and unique in its perspective.