Saturday, 10 January 2015
REVIEW: BIRDMAN (OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
119 Minutes. Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan & Edward Norton. Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu.
"F###### boring"! That was the verdict the last time Michael Keaton was on the big stage in New York City. The Mecca of Madison Square Garden to be exact at the dawn of a new century in 2001. The biggest opening night in another display of theatres history. When the greatest basketball player of all-time, Michael Jordan returned to the NBA as his new Washington Wizards faced the New York Knicks for a return like no other. But between first game of the season rust, post-40 year old legs and those damn Knicks that was Keaton's on-air, classic unrealised, live T.V. reaction to a BBC reporter asking him how the game was. It was just that boring. Pure comedy gold just comes out of the most random situations and that's exactly the point here. As Keaton and director González Iñárritu play up the fact that the 'Beetlejuice' star is most famous for almost saying 'Batman' three times. This Gotham night, off-Broadway, off-beat, dark knight black comedy sets the stage as something in a whole new Academy this Oscar season. This stage show is no 'Producers', or 'Artist'. Its just a whole, different animal altogether. No rap fans, 'Birdman' has nothing to do Baby and Lil' Wayne, or Chris Anderson if you want to stay on the basketball playing court. Neither is it about Bruce Wayne for that matter. More like a more avian, Sesame Street like superhero with a voice that speaks to us and scares us more than Christian Bale as Keaton tries to put the spandex in the skeleton closet. Perhaps playing on the fact that this Bruce Wayne himself made it clear months ago that he didn't really care about his caped crusader alter-ego, until he responded to Christian Bale's admitted jealously of Ben Affleck by classically replying to questions of his jealousy by stating, "I'm Batman"! Well there you go! Pure comedy gold again. Still even in this superhero age, this satirical look at that and Hollywood still has The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man's girlfriend amongst its co-stars, whilst our ex-crusader moves objects like Magneto. The is bat-s### crazy! Random irony again is the makings of a great joke and this one has the last, lasting laughs.
What else do you expect when this film begins with Keaton meditating mid-air in some underwear that would do Bridget Jones' mother proud? Only to meander around Times Square mid-play in the same bills for a classic moment in cinema. Superheros haven't been this epically embarrassed in the neon, commercial heart of the city since Electro caught Peter Parker with his pants down. From the typewriter, typography beginnings, the whole thing marches to a drumbeat that could stay in time with The Roots of Jimmy Fallon's 'Late Night', filmed in one courageously creative running shot that would even leave Matthew McConaughey's classic 'True Detective' scene pausing to catch its breath. As a matter of fact this sure-shot and love Playbill to New York and the stage is a thing of beauty. Flowing purely in instrumental rhythm, to crescendo into new heights of bittersweet comedy and dramatic stages set to the tone of an aging actor coming to terms with his profession and self. Its a perfect portrait in all its paint cracks. Suffering from a super, typecast case of cape fear and directing and starring in a play based off the whimsical notion of a cocktail napkin devotion, Keaton's character is tongue-in-cheek superb. He'll leave a lump in your throat and a laugh in your belly. Showing the madcap comedy that made him a great, two by two addition to 'Multiplicity'. Only to then get every critics attention by roasting a New York reviewer by bareing his and her very being over some barroom back and forth that's anything but banter. So much so that he makes this aspiring critic that really wishes he was an actor want to put the pen down...because after all its just words.
But all of these are for him with formidable fondness. Even with Wolverine and Rocket heroes like Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper making the New York Times with their theatrics in 'The River' and 'The Elephant Man' respectively, this is Broadway's biggest hit right now. One that's about to be a tour de force all the way past the star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, all the way to the flashbulb love of the Kodak Theatre mid-February. 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal, the 'Fury' of Brad Pitt and James Brown's Chadwick Boseman better watch out, because there's a new 'Best Actor' in town with a whole new bag of tricks for this trade. The supporting all get their nods too. The ever manically great Edward Norton will leave you green with rage and envy at his range as he plays a prick to point perfection. Emma Stone also breaks and warms your heart with a tragically funny performance as a daughter in rehab itching for the closeness of a nearer father figure. Figure the other women in Keaton's life from the 'Oblivion' of the outstanding Andrea Riseborough to the 'Gone Baby Gone', stage vet Amy Ryan then you have more classic complexities to this stunning script. That's before we even hear the lines read by the always screenplay pitch perfect Naomi Watts, or the funny, black comedy, darker depths Zach Galifianakis will go to in order to wake up from 'The Hangover' of just another Alan keyed in typecast. This whole thing just works as perfect as the seamless lack of cut. Its a wrap. Forget the preview, the review is hear and it reads all about a hit. The headline? 'Birdman' spreads his wings, soaring over New York City and everything else'. "I am Birdman" declares Michael Keaton proudly too, as anyone waiting in ignorance for something more finally sees here that patience really is the virtue of this bird call. Accept the unexpected! TIM DAVID HARVEY.