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Multiple actors, putting on a Broadway play, seek validation and relevance.
Review (with Spoilers)
Straight up, the only reason I saw this film was due to Emma Stone. For while I liked Michael Keaton as Batman and Betelgeuse, I can’t say he has the type of name which makes me want to go to a local movie theater, much less New York, to see his film. Now, as for whether Stone presents a reason to see this film, or whether Keaton and the rest of the cast give you a reason to spend your hard earn money in a theater near you, look below.
Characters & Story
Riggan’s (Michael Keaton) acting career seemingly peaked in the early 90s with his Birdman character. A character which haunts Riggan’s thoughts to the point of making it seem like he is schizophrenic. An issue he can’t really deal with for he is putting on his first Broadway play. A production he wrote, directed, produced, and is starring in. Though when it comes to this play, it isn’t just his issues which are possible obstacles. He also has to deal with: his assistant/ daughter Sam (Emma Stone) who hasn’t too long ago gotten out of rehab; his costar Mike (Edward Norton) who’s a method acting getting on everyone’s nerves; Lesley (Naomi Watts) who, like Riggan, is trying to reinvent herself, while trying to not let Mike drive her insane; Laura (Andrea Risebourough), who is more so seeking validation from her relationship with Riggan than the play; and then there is Broadway critic Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan). Someone who, due to innate prejudice, finds the fact Riggan is taking up a stage a serious crime. Mostly because she believes the stage should belong to someone who paid their dues and is worthy of the space Riggan’s production is taking up.
Thus leading us on a journey in which Riggan is facing the madness of his casts, his own anxiety, and one woman ready to gut his production before even watching one show.
Like with Kristen Stewart in Camp X-Ray, or Shailene Woodley in White Bird In a Blizzard to a point, Emma Stone in the film pushes against the idea that all she may be able to play in her career are teenagers or love interest. For while Sam isn’t necessarily someone wild and crazy, at the same time Stone presents a character who has, before we met her, been stripped bare and now is just using the most meekest of defenses to protect herself. As for the rest of the cast, while I’ll admit Norton playing Mike was intriguing, it was Keaton who surprised me. Though it perhaps is just because I have such a limited knowledge of his filmography that I couldn’t really create any expectations for him.
With that said though, as we watch him deal with his insecurities as a father, an actor, and then him trying to deal with Norton’s character, you see a man not only on the verge of a serious meltdown, but also someone attempting to create the type of foundation needed to be comfortable with how his life is. And I would be remiss to not mention how interesting the technique of doing continuous long shots make it so you never feel like there is a moment you are taken out of what is going on. For outside the occasional editing technique making it seem one hour, or day, slips into another, as much as you can feel the weight of the film covering less than a week, it is all down very smoothly.
While the film certainly is funny, I felt most of the jokes the audience was laughing at went over my head. But, with it being a New York audience, perhaps that could be a factor into why they laughed more than me. However, outside of that excuse, I can only hope it was just me. For while all the backstage drama is often comical, I think that maybe you need to be near Riggan’s age, or perhaps gone through some of the stuff the characters have, to get the full effect of jokes.
And speaking of the characters, prepare for Keaton’s to be the only one with any real meat or flavor. For while Norton, Stone, Watts, and Riseborough certainly justify their paychecks, their characters’ stories are barely featured. In fact, I would say they are all strictly in the film to strengthen Riggan’s character more so than stand out on their own. For while Norton’s character will leave some lasting impression, sadly the women of this movie are given but one or two scenes, in which you feel like you are given the opportunity to get to know their characters before they become strictly background players.
Overall: TV Viewing
Despite good performances and a decent bit of laughter, something about this film just doesn’t feel like it really pushes itself to be worth seeing. For while I can definitely foresee this doing good for Stone’s career, and maybe even leading to an accolade or two for Keaton, neither the jokes or drama, really are hard hitting enough to lead me to say you shouldn’t wait to see this and must go now! Hence the TV Viewing label for, at least when it comes to my taste, this doesn’t seem like the type of film worth traveling to some theater nowhere near you.