At The Omniplex: ‘Birdman’ Is Powerful, Moving, Must-See Cinema

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Birdman 1‘Birdman’

By John Lyons

Films aren’t what they used to be, or at least that’s what many movie-buffs will often tell you in a bout of cynicism.

However, there is some truth to be found in that sentiment.

More films are being made today than ever before, and sadly, by virtue of this, there’s a lot more rubbish available than ever before.

Since most cinemas are populated by an abundance of formulaic Hollywood blockbusters which, for the most part, are all trying to emulate one another, oftentimes I find myself having to sift through a lot of utter trash in order to uncover the films that are genuinely worth seeing.

Tracking down a truly great contemporary film can prove to be difficult at times, but coming across a film that dares to show us something new is damn near impossible…

But every once and a while, a film arrives that goes against the norm, subverts expectations, and proves something wonderful — that there’s still new ground to be explored in cinema.

‘Birdman’ is such a film.

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest film is such a whirlwind of ambitious ideas on every conceivable practical level that the very notion of the film actually working and not winding up as some sort of monumental feat in pompous technical narcissism, is almost inconceivable.

But ‘Birdman’ doesn’t just work, it works wonders.

The vast majority of ‘Birdman’ takes place in the St. James Theatre on Broadway, where has-been actor Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton) is staging his career comeback by starring in a play he has adapted from Raymond Carver’s 1981 short story ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’.

Riggan needs this play to be a hit. He’s a former movie-star whose career and reputation has never recovered from the fall from stardom. At the height of his career, Riggan starred in a series of superhero blockbusters as ‘Birdman’.

But that was twenty-something years ago. Now Riggan is just an old man. A relic of the past. Forgotten by most and remembered by few, only for his one-dimensional performance as a comic-strip character in a cheesy Hollywood Blockbuster.

Riggan has poured every ounce of his money and resources into this Broadway play. It’s his last chance to revive his career and an opportunity to finally prove to his peers that he’s not just some washed-up jaded Hollywood persona – he’s a legitimate actor.

What’s most astonishing about ‘Birdman’ is that it’s shot and edited in such a way to give the illusion that almost the entirety of it was filmed in one continuous take.

Because of this grandiose and audacious shooting style, the film unfolds in a completely different manner than we’re used to seeing.

The camera drifts down corridors, follows the characters up and down winding staircases, and lingers on intensified personal conversations in tight, rigorous close-up’s.

The marriage of the writing and acting blends masterfully in performances that very much feel alive and conversations that carry with them a genuine emotional resonance.

The entire cast give performances that are nothing short of exemplary.

Emma Stone is exquisite in her delicate portrayal of Riggan’s spiteful daughter and personal assistant, Sam, who’s fresh out of rehab.

Zach Galifinakis’ subtle role as Riggan’s stressed and burdened manager, Jake, is tender and sympathetic.

And Edward Norton gives an especially remarkable performance as Mike Shiner, Broadway’s most talented, esteemed and egotistical actor.

But ‘Birdman’ works so well because of Michael Keaton’s empathetic portrayal of a desperate man attempting to piece his life back together, while gradually cracking under the insurmountable pressure involved in undertaking such a task.

‘Birdman’ is a wonderful, bittersweet glimpse into the harsh world of show business through a thick lens of black comedy. It explores the nature of fame, prestige, validation, and the intense desire for each.

But at the end of the day, ‘Birdman’ is so much more than just a showbiz satire, it’s a deeply personal, poignant perspective of an ageing man’s struggle to stay relevant.

This beautifully shot and invisibly edited film is such a well needed breath of fresh air. It’s unique, it’s moving, it’s powerful and it’s must-see cinema.

Simply sublime.


Follow John Lyons on Twitter: @Fireinthelyons

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