Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu // Year of release: 2014
Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton… // 119 minutes
Seen in March 2015.
Synopsis (from IMDb)
A washed-up actor, who once played an iconic superhero, battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself in the days leading up to the opening of his Broadway play.
How I apprehended the movie
This movie is really difficult to critique. I have seen reviews going from 1½ stars to the highest rating possible, and it just recently won the ultimate Award: Best Picture Academy Award 2015. I didn’t get to see the movie before the Oscars because the French release date in theatres was actually one week after the ceremony was aired. So I watched the movie knowing that it had won the Oscar (and plenty more); which can impair your judgement from the get go. So I went it, in a packed theatre, and tried to be as impartial and unprejudiced as possible.
There has been a lot of talk about the fact that Best Picture should have gone to Boyhood, which I have not seen, so this is maybe something that you should keep in mind when reading my thoughts.
The movie is basically one long sequence shot. The concept isn’t entirely new, Hitchock tried his version of it in his day, but in Birdman, it seemed to me that A LOT of work might have gone into the production of this movie. I remember an interview of Emma Stone where she said that she messed up a whole scene by walking up too fast and not being in sync with the movements of the camera or something. And when you see the scenes, they are not nice little 3-4 minutes scenes, they can run for very long. I understand as well that an incredible amount of rehearsals had to be conducted in order to get everything just right for the days of shooting. In this aspect (the technical one), I was incredibly impressed by this movie!
/!\Beware of likely unpopular opinion: Now, Boyhood took 12 years to make, which, as everybody seems to agree on, has never been done before and was an incredible piece of movie making. I agree that finding the founding for the movie, and afterwards getting all of the actors together over the years in order to shoot the movie must have been pretty complicated schedule-wise; but apart from the fact that is was shot over 12 years, I don’t see how it could be so ground-breaking or something.
I am not saying that Birdman was ground-breaking, but I am saying that the work of Iñarritu seems to have been a lot more complicated. I don’t know. I don’t know anything about movie-making, I could be very wrong. I’ll let you know when I watch Boyhood, one day, maybe.
EDIT: Since I have written this review, I have watched Boyhood, and I stand by what I said previously. I’d rather see Birdman win Best Picture than Boyhood.
Something else that was incredibly good in this movie: the actors. I don’t think I have seen an ensemble cast so good like that in a very long time. Michael Keaton obviously was incredible, but also Edward Norton, or even Zach Galifianakis who I had never really noticed for his acting skills before this movie; and my personal favourite: Emma Stone. She has an incredible monologue at one point, the camera is zoomed in on her face, and I was just transported by her performance. So good.
Now I could go into a very philosophical interpretation of the movie and the topics, and what it really meant to say, etc. But I won’t. First because I am not articulate enough to give a proper interpretation, and second because I think that I would need to watch it again and take extensive notes in order to form a real opinion.
I want to give Birdman 4/5 stars. Even though it is shy of 2 hours, I felt that the movie did run a little long. But other than that I think it is a very good piece of cinema, and there were a lot of great things about it.
If you want to read my first impressions fresh out of the movie theatre, go to my Letterboxd review.