Birdman (2015) – Mini Review

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I’m adopting a new approach to reviews this year as my time is precious and I have too many things going on to write several hundred words for every film I watch.  So you’ll be seeing many more mini reviews like this for films I’m not very excited about.  I’ll be devoting my full reviews to films I either love or hate.

Birdman  is my first film of the year as it was only released in the UK over the weekend.  The film stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomas, a one-time superhero who in a bid to resurrect his career is staging a play on Broadway.  He faces numerous challenges including a daughter back from rehab, a troublesome new co-star and a critic out for blood.

I avoided all reviews before going to see this film as per my standard policy but being active in film circles I was well aware of the overwhelmingly positive word of mouth surrounding this film.  Michael Keaton seems the overwhelming favourite to win the Best Actor Oscar so does the film live up to the hype?  Well, no.  I am baffled by the excitement caused by the film.  The film is shot in a single tracking motion with clever edits to allow for the passage of time and it has a good cast who give universally good performances (especially Emma Stone and Ed Norton) but as a film Birdman is distinctly average.

There are lots of bits and pieces but nothing is explored in any great depth.  Riggan is a struggling actor, he probably wasn’t a great dad, there’s an ex-wife, a new lover who may be pregnant, an actor Riggan doesn’t rate in his show, a replacement who takes the search for reality a little too far etc etc.  The result was I couldn’t engage with this movie, I couldn’t find my in to empathise with any of the characters.  Beyond Emma Stone none of the other female characters are given room to develop.  We get to learn nothing about them or why they are where they are in life and love.

I don’t want to leave the impression that this is a bad film, it isn’t.  The problem is that it isn’t special.  Every once in a while we get what I call a ‘critic’s darling’ when the herd mentality takes over and no one wants to be seen to be missing out.  I think Birdman fits into this category.

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