“Birdman” comic spin-off hits the big screen
By Elizabeth Chapa
Arts and Entertainment Editor
The film “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” is a battle of ego and ignorance featuring a washed up iconic superhero struggling to regain fame in a Broadway play after being a movie superhero many years prior. The movie which was directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñáritu, known for his trilogy drama films of “Amores Perros,” “21 Grams” and “Babel,” brings intensity and arranged chaos to the screen with his choices made in this dark comedy. Iñáritu was nominated for an Academy Award in 2006 for best director for “Babel,” a dark movie that tells the story of an interlocking out of sequence storyline. This movie however was a step in a different direction for the director.
“I think casting is one of the biggest decisions as a director. I tried to cast actors who would not make a caricature of these characters, but who would understand their humanity and give them depth even when the circumstances are absurd,” said Iñárritu.
Featured cast members include Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Ryan.
Keaton plays the role of the main character, Riggan Thomson, with precision. Confusing love for admiration his whole life, the once super hero actor is borderline delusional of what is reality and what is an illusion. Throughout the movie, Riggan is followed by his constant nagging figure of his imagination and companion super ego, Birdman. Riggan believes Birdman is crazy, while Birdman believes Riggan has lost his mind. Riggan is attempting to put his career back into focus with the play “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” based on the story by Raymond Carver.
Watts plays Lesley, a Broadway actress who makes her debut in Riggan’s play. Growing up, her biggest dream was to be a star on Broadway, and she made sure nothing would get in her way of achieving this goal not even her boyfriend, Mike. Norton, known for the movie “Fight Club” plays the nothing, but trouble boyfriend of Lesley, Mike Shiner, who is brought onto the production last minute.
Galifianakis known for his role as Alan in “The Hangover” plays Jake, Riggan’s attorney, play producer and best friend.
The film takes place in the Broadway Theater in New York City and takes viewers on the journey of Riggan Thomas attempting to make himself relevant again and gain his fame back by writing and performing in his play. Riggan will do just about anything to make this play a success, even if it costs him his sanity.
Throughout the movie previews of the play are performed by cast members in nights leading up to the opening play. When they run into a major critic just nights before the opening play, they are threatened she will ruin their play by the review she will give, which put Riggan on edge. However, Riggan pulls a shocking act during the play that has people across the country praying for him, making him a relevant, hot topic on the front page of the newspaper.
“It was a very short shooting. It was 29 days, so it was a very, very, very fast shooting—very effective,” said Iñáritu. “It was very intense and meticulous work of precision with actors and camera and the crew and everything was designed for match the needs of the film… We were walking on the wire, and so it was exhilarating.”
The standout film was a non-stop production. Instead of taking many different shots of scenes, the actors had to rehearse before they filmed.
“It was the hardest thing I have ever done because it is one unbroken shot, continuous scenes, several actors, room to room, and 15 pages of dialogue. You cannot mess up… Because of the way he shot it, it’s everybody’s moment all the time,” Watts said.
The filming choice really contributed to the whole feel of madness and amusement in the film. In a recent interview, Iñáritu said he wanted the long take to make people really feel the experience of Riggan.
The movie is a thrilling experience. Viewers watching “Birdman” will feel the intensity between characters and will be on the edge of their seats anticipating what the borderline crazy Riggan will do next.
“Birdman” is now playing in selected theaters. For more information, go to http://www.birdmanthemovie.com.
Featured image credits: Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. Copyright © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox.