Monday, February 9, 2015

Birdman: New York with Mexican twists

Director and co-writer Alejandro González Iñárritu, of Babel fame, has created a very classy film in Birdman.

Forget Hollywood - this is New York cinema with Mexican twists.

There are multiple layers. We have actors playing actors. Michael Keaton, star of Batman, plays Riggan Thomson, a once and possible future super-hero. Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough join him in Riggan's play within a screenplay, an adaptation of Raymond Carver's 'What We Talk about When We Talk about Love'. The bleak realism of Tennessee Williams vies with Latin American magical realism and extraordinary flights of fantasy. This is Streetcar meets Who's Afraid, both on stage and in the dressing rooms.

Emma Stone, as his daughter Sam gives a memorable performance, duelling with both her father and Norton's bad boy character Mike.

It's a visual delight without the bonus of its Birdman special effects. The venue/set is the interior and exterior of Broadway's St. James Theatre. The claustrophobia generated by shooting in the actual building is amplified by the seeming one take direction.

Lindsay Duncan makes a strong if clichéd job of theatre critic Tabitha. Her exchange with Thomson cuts deep. Some of the storyline is a bit predictable but it's easy to forgive. Its classification as a comedy/drama is definitely misleading. It is witty without being sidesplitting. The social media jokes lack bite after a while. Iñárritu is at his best when he wanders the dark side of identity and relationships.

The movie has received multiple Academy Award nominations. Alejandro seems a cert for best director oscar.

[Spoiler: Those who went to see Midnight Cowboy expecting a western were misguided to say the least. Don't expect a comic book blockbuster.]

1 comment: