birdmanposter1.jpg.pagespeed.ce.wTnp8Z8zYDBirdman has no competition, because there is nothing remotely like it out there. It is a semi-fantasy, dark comedy with an amazing cast and a highly imaginative script. Michael Keaton has never been better, and in this role he shows off a kind of raw emotive talent that I would not have guessed he possessed. Playing Riggan, a former mega-star who was known for his role as the immensely popular superhero Birdman a couple of decades back, he has come down to earth and is trying to make a name for himself again, only this time with a Broadway play that he wrote, an adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” He is directing it and starring in it as well. And he may just be losing his mind.

The film tells you from the first frame that something is up with Riggan. We meet him as he levitates cross-legged in his dressing room, preparing for his role in the play, talking with his Birdman alter ego, and making things move without touching them. And then onstage, as his distaste for one of his actors comes to a head, a light just happens to fall on him, taking him out. But it is a day before previews and the actor must be replaced and fast. birdman-image-4-6-20Enter Mike Shiner (Ed Norton) a method actor who thinks he knows more about “the theater” than Riggan and isn’t afraid to change the script where he sees fit. Skulking around the periphery is Riggan’s daughter Sam (Emma Stone) just back from rehab and looking for a bit of a connection with her dad. And on top of it all, the New York Times film critic informs him that she is going to run him out of town for thinking he, a movie star not an actor, can buy his way onto Broadway. So Riggan has a full plate, maybe too full you start to wonder. Is the voice in his head real or imagined? Is he crazy to try and put this play on, risking all his money and his reputation?

Birdman is a great ride and is helped immensely by the amazing camerawork of Emmanuel Lubezki, which gives you the impression that the entire film is just one long take, moving seamlessly from scene to scene sometimes as if by magic. It is truly beautiful to watch. And the inventive soundtrack mostly of drums adds another layer of emotion throughout. I loved that the drummer was on camera a couple of times. It is really one of those films that has it all and will probably be on a few best of lists. I expect Keaton to be nominated for an Oscar, and I wouldn’t be surprised if director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Biutiful. Amores Perros) and cinematographer Lubezki (Gravity, The Tree of Life) get a couple, too. The script is intelligent and frequently funny. The cast including Zack Galifianakis, Naoimi Watts, and Lindsay Duncan, are all at their best. It is definitely on my list of the top films of 2014. I highly recommend it for all adult audiences.

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