Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – 5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

birdmanBirdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – 5/5 – The one thing about films is that it is art; film is something that is (down to its core) subjective.  No matter what genre (comedy, action, drama) or tone (dark, light, goofy, feel-good) everything comes down to being an experience.  Where you get a wonderful experience is things you may not expect.  That unexpected feeling brings you into a film with a gentle grip, and takes you on a journey where a film goes beyond a traditional sense of entertainment, and creates something that is completely and utterly amazing experience.  Birdman is a film that is unexpected, surreal, complex and simply a great ride.  The thing that makes this film stand out is that; the overall experience is complete.  Birdman is a film that takes literal, grounds it, and gives you an experience that is the best of the year.

Premise: A washed up Actor (Riggan) tries to reinvigorate his career through the stage.  In trying to find purpose again, one man must find if it is all worth it, and will any outcome be better than his current situation.

The acting in this film is by far the best I have seen this year.  From the main actor (Michael Keaton) to the supporting cast, it is a marvelous layering of deep appeal of strong singular emotions.  As mentioned, Keaton plays the main character of Riggan.  He is a man who is trying to recreate his career on the theater stage, having previously been a big Hollywood star in comic book films.  On the surface, the struggle will seems to not be deeply moving.  What you come to find out is that the complexity is brimming under the surface; bringing in not only Riggan’s struggle with bringing his play to the stage but also fighting and trying to find ‘importance’ for himself again.  That humanistic allure is magically intertwined with dark overtures and raw human appeal.  You see a reflection of yourself within Keaton’s Riggan, understanding his struggle, sacrifices and trying to fill that hollow hole with purpose of oneself.  With that complexion and the irony of what he plays (a reflection of his literal self), this is by far one of the best acting jobs I’ve seen from him; and puts him in contention for an Oscar.  When it comes to the supporting cast, you have as followed:

Emma Stone as Sam (Riggan’s Daughter)

Zach Galifianakis as Jake (Riggan’s lawyer)

Naomi Watts as Lesley (play actress)

Andrea Riseborough as Laura (play actress)

Edward Norton as Mike (Co-lead play actor)

On the level of a supporting role; these actors/actress give some of the best performance of their lives. Not only do they play into the story of ‘theater vs. Hollywood’ that is presented, but they also do a good job in complimenting Keaton’s Riggan on a human level.  They provide both emotional wholesome friendship as well as conflicting ‘type A’ personalities, trying to sabotage on a small level for the sake of their own personal gain.  They play to the whole theme of ‘purpose’; while also complimenting that supportive role on an individualistic scale.  Out of the group, Emma Stone and Edward Norton stand out the best.  There complexion helps create a notion of ‘real’ people in Riggan’s life, feeling their pain and hating their actions when they go against him and his struggles to create this play.

The direction is a mix of traditional storytelling with ‘experimentation’ in combining allegories of life, living and purpose.  This experimenting with themes and grounded ambition blends in a story that can be taken as ambitious.  On the surface, you see the story of a man (Riggan) trying to find purpose later in his life by going to theater and creating a play.  What you come to realize that this is more than a ‘traditional’ story; it goes beyond and covers the literal with a thematic experience.  You see through the acting, story and the overall tone/mood that is presented puts forth the question; what is important?   Riggan is a man that struggles with this.  He believes that through purposeful acting instead of being a ‘big blockbuster’ actor he can fill that void.  He wants to be seen as someone more than just a ‘character’ but a ‘person’.  So much is spoken through this simple perspective, that it creates more than just what is ‘visually’ on the screen.  You see that even on a level that harnesses problems in Hollywood, it also shows how that this conflict gives reflection of life on so many levels.  You have a look into the ‘theater vs. Hollywood’ themes while also seeing those literal perceptions pushing the limits through a ‘breaking of the 4th wall’; giving the audience a look of conflicting importance through this overarching theme:

Experience vs. reality

What is really important?  I repeat this again because the question sheds an allegory on life and the humanistic appeal of finding significance.  What this film does is show how far people will go to prove worth to everyone and anyone that will listen to them.  Beyond these themes is how it is brought through on an ‘experimentation’ level.  The director takes the approach of one long ‘one shot’ (explained later) that blends imagery of surrealism into hollow significance, showing a how we try to fill this with our own meaning.  The director shows that art can be new, and unexpected; and I love that ambition.  This film does something unique, and in that uniqueness we are given a metaphor on how everything is representative of ignorance (as the title presents).  Along with this, we get to see how the purity of the situation is given a tone that is very dark.  Even though it is layered with dark sensations, the irony is that we have a complexion of a comedic appeal.  It is very subtle, but you see it come through.  With the combination of slick dialogue, witty interactions and confrontation through subtlety, we get a very strong ‘dark comedy’.  The parallels are unexpected, and your reaction to that unexpectedness gives this film a different but wonderful ride.  Once we head into the climax and the end, the parallels of life with the exposition of importance vs. insignificance leads to an epilogue that is ambiguous, but meaningful.  The presentation of being who we are (even in reinvention) shows real light in life, and ends the film on a note that is whimsical but alluring.

The visuals of the film are breathtaking on a small scale.  As mention earlier, the film takes the approach of a ‘one shot’; a focus on singular situations to creation the illusion of complexity.  That ambitious cinematography helps create an experience through our ‘eyes’, but also blends the surreal with truth.  The meaningful situations we get coincide with being amazingly tangible on an ‘everyday’ level.  Can you believe the madness of Riggan’s or can you see yourself as Riggan’s.  That combination of imagination with hyper realism creates sensations that are only found in unique filmmaking; and it stands out strongly here.  The score is another amazing addition to this film.  The blending of ‘raw’ drumming and offbeat rhythm creates sensations that grip you when it may or may not be meant to be.  That randomness creates the feelings of abruptness, making things stand out even more than they should.  That contrast creates the purity with the rest of the film.

Birdman might not have that blockbuster appeal or been on your radar, but it is a film that gives you an experience better than any blockbuster could ever do.  From the acting, storytelling and the experimentation of themes; this is one that will stand out for you.  As mentioned, this is one of the best films this year, and a running contention for multiple awards later in award season.  I recommend everyone watching this, you will be thoroughly impressed.

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