We’ve maybe got the film of the year – released on the first day of the year.
It’s a front-runner for Best Picture and Best Director, with Michael Keaton the bookie’s favourite for Best Actor – and without doubt rightfully so.
This ambitious black comedy is a delight in so many ways that all film buffs should put on their metaphorical wings and fly away with it – if just for ex-Batman Michael Keaton’s enigmatic turn alone.
His portrayal of washed-up former actor Riggan Thomson, who used to play an iconic movie superhero (yep, you guessed it, Birdman) is a joy to behold, but the likes of Edward Norton and Emma Stone (who have joined Keaton with Golden Globe nominations too) pretty much put in career best performances alongside him.
With 20 years or so having passed since ‘Birdman 3’, Thomson riskily puts what is left of his fading career on the line (financially as well) by combining acting and directing duties for a Broadway play – which leads to issues that all adults may have experienced at one time or another.
Depression, anxiety, integrity, parenting, marriage, madness, sexual insecurity and delusional behaviour are just some of the topics that Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel and 21 Grams) – who is undoubtedly battling with Boyhood’s Richard Linklater for the Best Director Oscar gong – explores and superbly moulds together with immense originality.
His clever third-person direction – coupled with a catchy drum-heavy jazz-infused soundtrack – deserves equal plaudits as Keaton’s off-the-wall effort, as Thomson battles to overcome his ego and family troubles as he looks to reclaim his former glory.
If problems with his just-out-of-drug-rehab daughter Sam (Stone), maybe-pregnant younger lover Laura (Andrea Riseborough), highly-strung producer best friend Jake (The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis), emotional female lead Lesley (Naomi Watts), and alcoholic new male star Mike Shiner (Norton) isn’t enough – he’s constantly plagued by the demon-in-his-head ‘Birdman’ which pushes him to the edge of his sanity.
As with all films that have a lot of artistic input – it’s darkness won’t be to everyone’s tastes – you’d be hard pressed to not be at least impressed with some facets of this work of ingenuity, whether it’s actually your cup-of-tea or not.
But watching Thomson show his full range of emotions is car-crash cinema at its finest – and Birdman deserves immense praise for what it achieves.
Keaton, Innaritu, Norton, Stone and co all combine their superpowers for one hell of comedy-drama that thrives on its thought-provoking ambiguity, alongside a full range of human emotions, that makes it an intellectual gem that comes highly recommended.
Birdman just doesn’t fly... it soars.
By Gavin Miller: Rating: 5/5