Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) – Alejandro G. Inarritu

Micheal Keaton shines in Alejandro Innarritu’s Birdman. He brings a level to his performance that you know is based on personal experience, and delivers an Oscar-nominated virtuoso performance as Riggan Thompson, an actor who walked away from a billion dollar superhero franchise and is now worried about his relevance while being haunted by his past.

Riggan takes on the role of director, producer and star of a Raymond Carver novel he adapted for the stage. And we join him, and his cast in the previews leading up to opening night. Filmed as one long continuous shot, which required rehearsal and planning of the utmost degree, there are barely noticeable cuts tying it all together, as we join Riggan and his haunted soul.

As he struggles with a changing cast, and the bringing on of a stage actor who is skilled, but arrogant, Mike Shiner (a great turn by Edward Norton in a character that provides a spin on his image, much like Riggan’s is a spin on Keaton’s) who may ruin the show, or help them sell tickets, or both.

Throw in his daughter, Sam (Emma Stone) as his assistant, Naomi Watts as Lesley, an actor who is finally about to have her debut on Broadway (and is in a relationship of sorts with Mike), Andrea Riseborough as Laura, the other actor in the show (and having a relationship with Riggan) and Zach Galifanakis as Riggan’s best friend, manager and agent, Jake, and you have a film that skewers film and stage, while laying bare the souls of the actors who tread the boards, and shine on the screen.

I get completely swept up in Keaton’s performance every time. He seems so troubled and haunted by the glory that was his as a movie star, and now wants to focus on his craft. He doesn’t want to be seen as a celebrity, but an actor, but it’s his own opinion of himself that will hold him back or set him free.

Riggan is a deeply flawed character, and that makes him human. And Keaton embodies it beautifully. There are pop culture references aplenty, done straight-faced as opposed to with a wink and a smile, which layers a reality to it that makes the characters and the moments all the more believable.

Keaton brings it in this film, and you have to wonder if the experience for him, and the viewer would be the same had he not stepped away from his own superhero cape.

This is one I enjoy, and I am always eager to share it with those who haven’t seen it. Man, Keaton is a fantastic actor, and I don’t think he always gets the recognition he deserves. But this film showcases his talent brilliantly.

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