”Birdman,” a new film starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Emma Stone, has been getting a lot of buzz at film festivals. The film begins its regular run in theaters this week. Neil Rosen filed the following review.
Michael Keaton plays Riggin Thompson, an actor on the ropes. He used to be a big movie star, playing the title role in a blockbuster, superhero franchise called “Birdman.” But that was years ago. These days his career has hit the skids and he's desperately looking to stage a comeback.
His vehicle to try and get back on top is a serious Broadway play that he's writing, directing and starring in.
Also appearing in this weighty stage production is Edward Norton, playing an arrogant snobby theatre actor who's been called in as a last minute replacement. Naomi Watts plays Norton's lover both on stage and off. Then there's Emma Stone, as Keaton's daughter. She's a fresh out of rehab, theatrical assistant, who's far too cynical for her young age.
It's a backstage story, about the making of a Broadway play and all the craziness that ensues leading up to opening night. There's many pointed cynical stabs at actors, their egos and their insecurities and there's even a nice shot at the Times theatre critic.
Co-written and directed by Alejandro Inarritu, it has both comedic flourishes and surrealistic touches, as the alter ego of “Birdman” periodically shows up to counsel the star.
At times it's overly ambitious. Some scenes are absolutely riveting, others very clever, others disappointingly obvious. But more often than not, it hits, and it's filled with a lot of sharp pointed dialogue. Some scenes may leave audiences baffled, but I think that's the point as everything here is open for interpretation.
Filmed in the Times Square theatre district, with a shaky, swirling handheld camera, it's a fresh and original piece. The joke of course, is that the similarities between Keaton's real life career as Batman and his on screen character here, as Birdman, are more than coincidental. The entire cast is first rate, but Keaton's performance is one to relish and might just put him back on top.
Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: 3 1/2 apples