Movie Review: Birdman


Not to be confused with the American rapper, Birdman opens with what appears to be a burning comet hurtling down to earth. The vision fades to a levitating Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) in his unflattering tighty-whiteys, attempting to block the hallucinatory baritone voice of Birdman (also Michael Keaton) inside his depressingly messy, cramped room.

Viewers not privy to the film’s genre might be confused: Is this a superhero flick about the 60s cartoon series, a supernatural/psychological film or a comedy?

Seen through the lens of a single camera, Birdman revolves around Riggan’s last-ditch attempt to become a relevant actor again. His grand plan? Rewriting, directing and acting in the Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.


It’s all off to a unfortunate start, with Riggan instigating an accident that incapacitates an actor. Coupled with financial difficulties and the entrance of Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), an incredible performer who preaches about realism onstage, but is a deplorable person offstage.

Life really is lousy for Riggan. Aside from his disastrous attempt to revive his career, he also has to mend his estranged relationship with his fresh-out-of-rehab daughter, Sam (an uncharacteristically bitter and sassy Emma Stone). It’s no wonder that the washed-up actor spends much of the film demolishing his room with his telekinetic powers that he displays only when he’s alone.


A self-centered tantrum-throwing loser with supposed superpowers (or delusions of grandeur), Riggan isn’t as bad of a person as he is made to be. He’s capable of comforting and understanding. He’s there for the traumatized greenhorn Broadway actress, Lesley (Naomi Watts) when she needs him.

Albeit out of character, Riggan eventually mellows out a little and seemingly mends his relationship with his ex-wife Sylvia (Amy Ryan), daughter and actress-girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough) right before the shocking penultimate of the film.

Accompanied by a lot of drums (scored by Antonio Sanchez), the titular caustic winged figment of Riggan’s imagination throws shade at Ironman; the film spectacularly name-dropping the likes of Michael Fassbender to Justin Bieber. A sassy deconstruction of the superhero genre boom and acting in general, Birdman will have Hollywood buffs chortling over its fourth-wall-punching dark humor.


In particular, Birdman’s casting director Francine Maisler has assembled the most star-studded meta cast ever: ex-Batman Keaton as the spent actor of Birdman and the irony of casting the pre-Avengers Hulk Norton as a difficult method actor. Pity they didn’t manage to get Daniel Radcliffe on board, what with the central theme of an actor who turns to Broadway after being unable to escape his star making role.

The film’s epilogue that was actually featured in the trailer left many scratching their heads and speculating: Was Birdman even real? Did Riggan really have flight and telekinetic abilities or was his daughter just really stoned in the finale? Or was the second half of the movie just a dream?


The cast and crew alike are keeping mum about the ambiguous ending. One can only hope for an explanation about the film’s Inception-like conclusion in the future.

Meanwhile, the Birdman cast and crew are most likely celebrating Michael Keaton’s Golden Globes win and gearing up for the Oscars come Feb 22, especially for Emmanuel Lubezki, who has already snagged various accolades for his creative use of editing and cinematography technique to create the stunning one-take effect throughout the entire film.

The tale of an actor’s mid-life existential crisis decades after shaking off his Lycra bird-suit, Birdman does leave one wondering what will become of the Avengers, X-Men and the others riding on the superhero wave once their prime passes or just actors in general. What will they become, when the final credits roll and their costumes and makeup removed – perhaps that is the eternal question plaguing every actor’s psyche.

Rating: 5/5


Release Date: January 15

Runtime: 119 min

Genre: Drama, Comedy

Censorship rating: M18

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan