Sunday, January 25, 2015

Movie Review: Birdman

2 stars out of 5

Michael Keaton played the best Batman way back in the 1989 dark comedy by Tim Burton. Viewers would be better off renting that masterpiece than shelling out $7 for his latest vehicle, Birdman. Themes and acting were great. The filming was distracting and the plot, especially the ending, was annoying.

I wanted this movie to be good. I really did.

There are better reviews written elsewhere (like here), but I am surprised by the sheer number of top ratings --100 out of 100-- at metacritic and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 92%. Am I missing something?

The acting by Michael Keaton, Ed Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis and Emma Stone was top notch.The personal themes were fine: Keaton plays a broken down moviestar trying to reinvent himself as a Broadway actor and director, as well as an absent father feeling like he failed his adult, drug-rehabbed daughter. He is a failure as a husband, questioning his talent and whether his past success was real... yada, yada, yada.

Keaton’s character adapts a short story to Broadway and then goes into debt to produce, direct and act in the play, opening himself up to humiliation and professional and financial ruin.

Ed Norton plays a Broadway pro whose self-confidence wanes when not on the stage. Naomi Watts is a fledgling actress concerned that this play will define her career. Emma Stone is Keaton’s daughter and Zach Galifianakis plays the lawyer and best friend.

It’s billed as a dramedy and the personal dramas are valid, but most of the jokes are inside baseball stuff for the Hollywood and Broadway crowds that those of us living in the Flyover aren’t too concerned with. Who cares if Keaton’s character isn’t respected as a “real” actor?

Many of the reviews remark on the novel way the movie is filmed, with continuous shot-on video making it seem that the whole movie is done in one take. Big whoop. Hitchcock did that in “The Rope” 50 years ago before all the cinematographic tricks. And I noticed the shot-on camera dance about ⅓ of the way through, so if a semi-skilled laborer in a square state can figure it out, it’s not a big deal. Frankly, it became distracting.

The biggest problem is the plot, especially the ending. Keaton struggles, he remembers past glory, he deals with anger, he goes through the dark night of the soul, he anticipates new glory, he resolves issues with his family…. all good stuff.  Then the writer doesn’t have an ending  ….Keaton the Birdman flies away, or some such bullshit.

There’s probably an Oscar in here somewhere because the writer flagellates Hollyweird by portraying a moviestar as a legitimate actor. Kudos for that I suppose.