Film Review by Kam Williams
Fading Star Mounts Comeback on Broadway in Midlife Crisis Dramedy
A couple of decades ago, actor Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) was sitting atop the showbiz food chain. However, the former box-office star’s stock has been in sharp decline since he stopped playing Birdman after a trio of outings as the popular, blockbuster superhero. And today, he’s so closely associated with the iconic character that nobody’s eager to hire him.
With his career fading fast and no roles on the horizon, Riggan decides to take it upon himself to orchestrate his own comeback. The plan is to mount a Broadway production, with what’s left of his dwindling savings, of the Raymond Carver short story, “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love”.
First, he adapts the short story to the stage, with the idea of not only starring but directing. Then, he enlists the assistance of his skeptical attorney/agent Jake (Zach Galifianakis) and his drug-addicted daughter Sam (Emma Stone), while rounding out the cast with his girlfriend, Laura (Andrea Riseborough), fellow film industry refugee, Lesley (Naomi Watts), and her matinee idol beau, Mike (Edward Norton).
Will the washed-up thespian manage to make himself over with the help of this motley crew? Unfortunately, Riggan is a troubled soul with more on his plate than the already intimidating challenge of putting on the play.
For, he happens to be haunted by a discouraging voice in his head telling him he’s going to fail, too. That would be his alter ego, Birdman, a nasty, one-note, blithering birdbrain of balderdash.
Written and directed by Oscar-nominee Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (for Babel), Birdman is a bittersweet portrait of a Hollywood has-been desperate for a second go-round in the limelight. The sublimely scripted dramedy simultaneously paints a perfectly plausible picture of life on the Great White Way courtesy of pithy background banter.
The movie features a plethora of praiseworthy performances, starting with Michael Keaton (Batman) who will likely earn an Oscar nomination in a thinly-veiled case of art imitating life. Also impressive are Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and an unusually-sedate ZachGalifianakis, if only for his acting against type.
The theater world’s eloquent answer to Black Swan equally-surrealistic exploration of ballet.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, brief violence and pervasive profanity
Running time: 119 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures