Movie Review: Birdman


When I first heard of Birdman, some friends were talking about it and thought it was about the cartoon Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. And to be honest, after watching it I wish it was about the crime fighting attorney. For as much praise as this movie received, I was a little disappointed.

The movie is directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu and stars Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, and Zach Galifianakis. Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a fading Hollywood star who is famous for his portrayal of the superhero Birdman. But outside of his career in the costume of Birdman, he has struggle to stay relevant and the Broadway play he is working on is struggling just as much.

Norton plays Mike Shiner, an actor who steps into a role in Thomson’s play. At first he seems like the perfect answer but soon his behavior becomes just another problem for Riggan. Galifianakis plays Jake, Riggan’s lawyer and friend who has to constantly try to keep Riggan and the entire play from falling off the deep end. Naomi Watts plays Lesley Truman, an actress and Mike’s former girlfriend while Stone portrays Samantha Thomson, Riggan’s daughter and assistant who is also a recovering drug addict.

Birdman was highly praised by critics and was nominated and won many awards, but I’m not sure I grasped what made it so good. Well, as far as the actual plot is concerned. The film moved very slow and was very dull to me at moments. But maybe I am just not the kind of person made for a movie like this. I am after all the one guy out of all my friends who finds the most obscure movies entertaining while generally ignoring the critically acclaimed features.

But while I did not enjoy the overall story of the movie, there were a few positives that I took away from Birdman. First was the performance of Keaton. If anyone was born to play a man who is losing control and living on the edge, it is Michael Keaton. In moments of the film, Keaton delivered lines very reminiscent of his performances in Beetlejuice and Batman, especially when he portrayed. In one scene, I was immediately brought back to the scene where Keaton’s Bruce Wayne goes crazy and challenges The Joker. This movie may not have been for me, but Keaton was perfect for this role.

Norton’s performance was also great. He has the reputation for being tough to work with on movie sets and his character of Mike Shiner is basically a satirical version of that reputation. Norton seemingly jumped straight into this role and gave it his all. And it was good to see as I do not believe Norton gets the credit he deserves as a great actor.

Another positive was the editing of the movie, or should I say, lack there of editing. The very long winding shots and minimal edits was brilliant and a refreshing way to view a movie. But despite the great acting and filming, I still was not a huge fan of this movie like everyone else seemingly was. I could see how people who like the film, but it just wasn’t for me. Now, if they do want to make a movie about the cartoon Birdman, then I might be a little more interested.

Daryl Karpinski Jr.