Riggan (Michael Keaton) was the star of Birdman. These days, he is starring in a stage play for which he wrote the stage adaptation and is directing. When his costar shows little talent, Mike (Edward Norton) is hired to replace him. Mike, while being a talented actor, is a bit of a loose cannon. It is part of his method. He lets it all hang out.
Riggan’s daughter, Sam (Emma Stone) works as Riggan’s assistant. She has recently completed a stint in rehab and is a bit flaky. Her relationship with her father is strained. His constant demands do not help matters.
Riggan believes the play will revive his career. He wrestles with his ego, sometimes literally, while trying to restore his relationship with Sam. As opening night approaches, the stress of his life takes a toll.
To say Birdman is strange is to put it mildly. Fortunately, this makes for an original story that, besides being bizarre, will have you wondering where it is going. Even at the end, you will still be wondering exactly what is going on. And how. And why.
With art imitating life, as it often does, this movie could be the revival of Michael Keaton’s career. His portrayal of Riggan is unlike what we are used to from Keaton. Gone are the days of Mr. Mom and Batman. Though, one could easily imagine his character’s resentment of the film. Keaton brings a much darker character to life. There are glimmers of the Keaton we know and love, but just peeks of it. He takes himself to the next level as the obviously disturbed actor.
Perhaps most notable of his costars is Ed Norton. His character’s no holding back approach to life seems to fit right in with Norton. Like Keaton, there is just enough humor to make it a black comedy without taking it over the top. Zach Galifianakis is barely recognizable in the film. Forget what you know of the bearded goof from the Hangover franchise. Like the rest of the cast, Emma Stone included, he takes it to the next level.
While probing into the inner psyche of what could be construed as Keaton himself, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. That much is obvious from the story itself. Riggan often has fits of paranoid schizophrenia, leading to scenes that, while not necessarily the best special effects, make the story what it is. Which is head scratching at times.
While the Best Actor field is an excellent batch, it isn’t too difficult to see why Keaton has been cleaning up with award after award. It looks like he may be the favorite to win the Oscar this year.
With an “out there” story, Birdman is definitely worth watching. It is a nice break from the reboots and sequels that have been filling the theaters of late. Make sure you catch it before it leaves the theater, so you can appreciate it before the Oscars.