Michael Keaton stars in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), a wild movie about ego, family and redemption that discovers the devil (and superhero) is all in the details.
Birdman is a story within a story perhaps inside another story. This is not a new concept in storytelling, however. Shakespeare was famous for staging a play within a play, using the theatrical device to mirror themes and character desires, so we think it’s no coincidence that this film is about mounting a Broadway play.
When we look at director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s little details in Birdman, we realize how deep the storytelling layers go. All the little amazing things may just add up to make the most exciting movie of the year. Here are five of them.
1. The fact that Michael Keaton played Batman twice
Michael Keaton plays a washed-up film actor, Riggan Thomson, known by the public for playing a superhero named Birdman. There’s great irony in the fact that Keaton played Batman early on in the superhero’s franchise. However, Keaton claims he doesn’t relate to Riggan. “In terms of the parallels, I’ve never related less to a character than Riggan, but I did understand him on a lot of levels because he was so visceral and true and heartbreakingly human,” he said. But given Keaton’s masterful performance, we can’t help but wonder if Keaton related more than he let on.
2. Casting Zach Galifianakis as the straight man
Of all the characters in the movie, Jake (Galifianakis) is probably the most levelheaded. Because of Galifianakis’ comedic ability, he usually plays the kooky guy, but here, he plays lucid and rational, and does a stellar job. Galifianakis said, “I was a big fan of Alejandro’s movies. I liked him even before I knew him and when we met for coffee, he told me he wanted me to play something a little bit more real and subtle as opposed to a caricature, which was a refreshing thing for me to try.”
3. Tricky camera shots make the film look like one long take
Galifianakis calls Iñárritu’s visual style a “seamless narrative” that makes the film feel like watching a live play. “I think it is such an interesting way of telling a story, the camera moving in real time. There is real geography and timing, in terms of hitting your marks, delivering your lines. I didn’t think I was capable of it but Alejandro was so easygoing and nice. I found the whole thing to be intriguing — a movie about an actor ends up being a real actor piece for all of us,” said Galifianakis. We challenge you to look for the cuts.
4. Drum-based musical score
Drums are everywhere in the film and it’s exciting and fresh. Iñárritu said, “By editing, you can alter rhythm and pace. Not having that tool in a comedy can be extremely challenging. So I thought the drums as the main score would provide the film not only a good vibe, but the possibility in helping me find the beat it needed. Rhythm is everything in cinema.”
5. Fast pacing
We wish every filmmaker could study the scene and story pacing in this film. It flashes in front of our eyes at just the right speed to keep us interested while allowing us to take in the visual and emotional landscape. There is no dead space in this film, as each moment of screen time is utilized to its fullest.
Birdman expands to additional theaters on Nov. 7.