Picoreview: Birdman

Picoreview: Birdman: So, wow. That was, so that was a movie.

I’m. Wow. Virtuoso performances from the whole cast. Emma Stone eats the screen alive when she’s on screen, and Edward Norton–it’s always fun to watch actors playing actors, but he’s especially good (I shall detail why behind the spoiler cut). Coming from the theatre background that I do, it was a…it was…it rang true in the same way Noises Off does, except without the farce. Mostly. It was…wow.

And technically, also, wow. The scene changes, the camera shots, the…wow. Sublime. I never, ever forgot that I was seeing sublime camera work and scene changes either, although I don’t think–particularly with the scene changes–that I was intended to.

I…am not sure that Michael Keaton deserves the Oscar more than Eddie Redmayne. I think there’s a very good chance he’ll *get* it instead of Redmayne, because he’s 63 and Redmayne is 33. I would be *really* pleased if it got Best Picture and Redmayne got Best Actor, though.

I’m not sure I enjoyed it. Or liked it. Or…something. I am, however, impressed as hell with it. It’s very, very good.

I’m going to make a couple of spoilery comments about the actual story, and the end of the film, behind the cut. If you think there’s any chance you’ll see it, I’d suggest not reading the spoilers, because I genuinely think it’s worth watching unfold without any particular notion of what’s going on.

First, Edward Norton: he’s terrific in this, and if you know anything about Edward Norton he’s even better than that. I’ve seen him in interviews, and my perception of him is that he’s a complete cypher. There’s no there there, without a character. So in Birdman he’s playing an actor–a stage actor–who *acknowledges* within the context of the story that it’s only on stage that he’s fearless/contains depth. And then *that* character is playing another character in the play within the play, and he’s spectacularly good when he’s supposed to be. So it’s Edward Norton playing Edward Norton if Edward Norton was a character, playing a character. It’s incredibly fucking meta and amazing.

As for Keaton, there’s a real question throughout the movie of whether you’re watching a man’s descent into madness. It’s quite beautifully done, to the degree that Keaton becomes a totally unreliable narrator: early on you (or I, anyway) accepted that the powers he’s manifesting were real, but there’s a terrific moment about halfway through where that’s completely thrown into question, and from there on out you really don’t know what’s happening with him. It’s fairly magnificent.

The very final shot, though, answers the question. I…might have cut it three seconds earlier, to leave the question in the air, because I like that kind of question left lingering, but…to do so would have also totally changed the tenor of the film, so I’m not sure I’m right in wanting it to have been cut. But I’m also not sure *they* were right to spell it out, which may, in the end, be why I’m impressed as hell with the film but not actually certain I *liked* it…

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