Way back on Thanksgiving weekend, I saw Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance at the Spectrum in Albany. I really admired what they were trying to do, this black comedy about an actor named Riggan (Michael Keaton) who had become rich and famous for playing a comic book superhero, the title reference.
Now he wants to write, produce, direct and star in a play on Broadway. However, he finds himself in conflict with some of the other actors, a nasty Broadway critic, and mostly, with himself.
The scene where Riggan is walking through Times Square nearly naked (seen in part in the trailer) is quite funny, as is the superhero action sequence (likewise teased in the trailer). This is great work by Michael Keaton, who, of course, played Batman in the movies then walked away from the role.
I think the movie says some important things about celebrity, trying to be true to one’s artistic vision, and how difficult the acting profession can be on family life. The actors are all fine, including Andrea Riseborough, Naomi Watts and especially Edward Norton as his fellow thespians; Zach Galifianakis as the guy trying to keep the production together; Lindsay Duncan as the steely critic; Amy Ryan as Riggan’s ex-wife; and Emma Stone as his very moody daughter.
Eric Melin wrote, correctly, in Scene-Stealers.com: “It’s a lot of things-a backstage drama, an absurdist comedy, a quasi-autobiographical revelation, a self-aware jab at blockbusters, a wannabe social-media age satire, and a piece of technically superior magical realism-but one thing it isn’t, is subtle.”
It has reviewed really well – 94% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, last I checked. Yet as I walked out of the theater, I saw someone I knew, who had seen the same showing of the film. He asked if I liked the film, and I said, “I’m still working on that.” He replied, “I didn’t like it.”
A couple of weeks later, I STILL don’t know that I liked it as much as admired it. Perhaps the too-positive buzz raised my expectations too high. Maybe the quirky direction of Alejandro González Iñárritu, who also co-wrote the screenplay was at times too distracting. Or maybe, just maybe, I just wasn’t in the mood for that particular movie at that particular time; it happens.