Opening 29 Jan 2015
Alejandro González Ińárritu
Writing credits: Alejandro González Ińárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo
Principal actors: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Kenny Chin
Storytelling evolved with human verbal transmissions, eventually evolving to include books, radio, then television, and celluloid. Nevertheless, the basic premise has not changed – ultimate impact is achieved when a simplistic good story is told stupendously well.
His glory days past, Riggan (Michael Keaton) decides to recreate himself. Nix Hollywood, cameras and takes, and Iscariot, the basis of his film fame and iconic superhero glory. Hello Broadway! Easier said than done. Especially as he decides to direct, act in and adapt Raymond Carver’s (thematically attuned) short story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. The play’s preview day looms, the lead actor stinks, Sam’s (Emma Stone) being persnickety, and his alter ego is being pernicious. The producer – best friend, et al – Jake (Zach Galifianakis) and Rig concur it needs a “name”, or a miracle. Enter Mike (Edward Norton), the lead actress’s (Naomi Watts) recommendation albeit a method actor renowned for being temperamentally troublesome. Commencing, boundaries are pushed; Mike takes it off stage; a corrosive critic (Lindsay Duncan) is threatening; Rig’s girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough) has a predicament, and Sylvia (Amy Ryan), mother and ex-wife, hovers. The finale soars, open to individual interpretation.
Director Alejandro González Ińárritu (Babel, Amores Perros, Biutiful) proves again his prowess with a titillating, candid manifestation of filmmaking’s transforming possibilities. This layered, quixotic black comedy was shot over 30 days in New York City’s historical St. James theatre. Centrically, theatrical thespians bond quickly; the day rehearsals begin until however long the play runs they spend umpteen hours together; Birdman accurately captures this environment. Keaton unflinchingly pulls off Riggan’s confusion about love and admiration, reality and illusion. Working cohesively, the gifted actors countless rehearsals predetermined their movements, whereby director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki, the master of light, skillfully executed shooting continually daily. Example: the camera is on the theatre roof with two actors, follows them in, down stairs to the area above the stage lights, and continues down following actors voices to the play being performed. Sheer tracking shot elegance. Sound design, sets, costumes, and editing (Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione) is exemplary. Four-time Grammy® winner Antonio Sanchez’s original drum score is outstanding. Ińárritu and his fully committed team introduce audiences to uniquely rich storytelling. Their reward is seven nominations – the most for any ensemble – for the 57th Golden Globe, but ours is a surprising look at what can be accomplished with imagination, foresight, and a commitment to that vision. (Marinell Haegelin)