Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
A super-thoughtful film? Don't do those very often do I? Well, I mean, sometimes you want to think, or sometimes you just hear good things about something and want to check it out. The general premise seems sound enough, and it's got a list of decent named actors involved, so I'd like to assume it's going to at least be an entertaining flick. At any rate, lets dive into this movie and see what the flock it's all about.
This is the story of a man falling apart. Our main character is trying to put on a play, but it seems as though the odds are stacked against him. An aging actor, we find that he either is loosing his mind or has some form of psychic powers that nobody else seems to notice. It seems as though things are about to get even worse as the opening previews approach when one of his leads ends up getting injured. His lawyer and himself starts to scramble in search of a replacement so they won't need to shut down - and ironically the "best choice" ends up pretty much knocking on the door. Things seem to be looking up for the production, although it appears that our main character is having some issues with his daughter (that are elaborated on later).
The new actor ends up being great at his part - although he ends up causing our main to need to mortgage his house. Granted, more stress seems to come up during their first preview, in which case the "fabled one" has a hissy fit on stage, causing more stress on the main character - who is once again hearing voices of his old acting part - Birdman - talk to him in his head. They try to work out their problems - to debatable success - and things are only about to get more complicated. During the next preview, the actor ends up getting "riled up" before the final scene, and ends up having a bit of a 'distraction' to the crowd - but ends up getting him a little interview over the phone that hits the front page the next day. Much to the dismay of the main character, it's a bit slanderous towards himself and really over-hyping about the actor - who claimed to be more involved in the directing than he is.
The spiral starts descending. More of the main characters personal problems start to surface, including his daughter having to have gone through rehab. Problems between his daughter and wife crop up, as well as a direct confrontation between the actor and the main character that ends up with some pretty rage-induced destruction of the main character's room. The show must go on however, but as things get more stressful, the main character seems to be loosing his grip on reality. That or reality is really starting to get weird. Birdman starts talking to him in person, he goes on a trip flying around town, and confronts a conceited critic who has a bit of an uncalled for despise against movie-actors. Will we find out just what's real? Will the play be a success?
What I'd like to address first is the fact that this thing was something to behold. Beyond the plot, beyond the characters, beyond the costumes and set all being standard-fair for the most part, how this thing is put together should make a lot of movie-technical fans quite happy. If someone told you that this entire film was actually shot in a couple of continuous takes, you wouldn't find it that hard to believe. The camera is constantly following the scene around, and outside of the eventual ramping "weirdness" towards the end or the skyline-transitions between days it really flows shot-to-shot so well that it's kind of easy to find yourself lost in just how much time has passed in the movie. It's like you've been set on the movie conveyor belt, and the rest of the scene is following you around - to the extent that this thing would probably make you feel like you were the camera should it be watched on one of those fancy virtual reality systems.
Actors do a phenomenal job as well - which isn't that big of a surprise considering how many rave reviews it got because of it. Some performances shine more than others - undoubtedly - but the general character interaction is quite well off. A couple of scenes - particularly the "test run" of their newest stage member - really stand out in that regard, feeding off of different worlds of acting and meshing really well as far as believability goes. As noted, the costumes are all relatively normal everyday attire (which is to say a little lack luster as far as spectacle although still put together well), with the exception of the Birdman suit itself, which looks entirely like it belongs in a modern super hero flick.
The hardest part to decipher at times is just what is real or what isn't. The movie does a relatively good job of dealing with this, sometimes making it rather obvious (flying around ending with a taxi guy chasing after to make sure he gets paid for his services) while others, well, you may find yourself second guessing things. At first, with nothing really substantiated, it's questionable if our main character in fact has some form of psychic powers, followed later by making it seem as though it might just be him imagining psychic throwing when it's in reality just his own hands doing the tossing. On the opposite side of that, we see a drummer on the street, only to later see him inside a room in the building - full set, jamming away. On that note, I should mention that a good deal of this soundtrack is that drummer jamming away - which is both interesting and also providing a good reason that music exists for us (the watcher) to hear.
Overall, I gotta say it was a pretty good flick. Most impressive to me was actually how the overall thing came together - how it was shot, so to speak. Actors did a good job supporting it's length, and the plot has some pretty thoughtful moments spread throughout. Beyond that, I wouldn't say it's for everyone - some language and crude stuff, as that R rating would imply - and it's not very action-oriented at all, although the way it's shot really gives it a feeling of constant momentum. Worth a watch if your interested in some commentary about acting or the other parts it has to offer for thought.