Monkey Movie Review – Birdman : (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

Summary: A truly odd movie that is unique, entertaining, with a message. Somewhat directed at actors, but somewhat applicable to all of us. Fantastic acting by Michael Keaton, with a wonderful supporting cast.  Definitely check it out.  You’ll like it or hate it.

Adultness: Not for the kids by a long shot.  Adult themes, acts, words, etc.  A solid R rating.

Funny or Die: A serious movie with various dark undertones about life and goals.  Some funny parts but not a comedy.

Review: This movie was directed and written by Alejandro G. Inarritu (whose only other movie is perhaps Babel). It has a cavalcade of stars, including Michael Keaton, Zah Galifianakus, Ed Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Andrea Risenborough and Amy Ryan.

The movie revolves around a blockbuster movie star (Keaton) who used to be a movie superhero named Birdman.  That career, now over, has turned him to stage and the execution (direction) of a play by Raymond Carver called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”.  The execution of the play, its dry run and premier are the backdrop for the movie.

Galifianakus’ character is the Producer of the play, and Andrea Risenborough and Naomi Watts play the two lead female characters in the play.  Emma Stone plays Keaton’s troubled daughter, who doubles as his personal assisantt. Ed Norton plays a remarkable actor who is into “method acting”.

Keaton’s acting is very good.  A good number of shots are of him simply thinking, with a voice over.  He’s clearly pained throughout the movie with insecurities about the play he’s pushing. He hallucinates and often becomes his alter-ego “Birdman”. He’s angry with himself, with the play he’s selected, with his cast.  He is distraught.

Then enters Ed Norton, who joins the stage cast. Norton’s character immediately causes a stir and drives the play in a different direction. There are few movies where an actor can make me hate their character as much as I disliked Norton’s “Mike Shiner”  I didn’t hate the acting, just the character, who portrayed destructive egotism that drove Keaton to the brink.  It’s Norton’s execution, his cavalier attitude toward everyone, including himself that helps make this movie interesting.

In the meantime, Keaton’s girlfriend (Andrea Risenborough) has insecurities.  She desperately wants Keaton’s attention, and lacking that, wants anyone’s attention.  This while Keaton is nonchalantly praising Naomi Watts’ character, not realizing that his girlfriend is the one who needs attention.  Emma Stone is a recovering drug addict who is struggling to understand her relationship with her father (Keaton).

If that sounds like a hot mess of a movie, it is.  But the pace and acting keep it moving.  The characters are interesting, unique and have specific attitudes toward each other and life.

It’s a short review, but I highly recommend the movie.  Others I have spoken to hated the movie.  And I can see why.  It’s different and can be confusing.  It’s also an inside look at actors and acting, with commentary about “blockbuster” actors versus those on the small stage, as well as commentary on theater critics.

There’s a funny scene where Keaton’s character is suddenly locked out of the theater the play is performing a scene that doesn’t need him.  His attempts to get inside from the rain, back through the front door of the theater, and make it look as part of the play are quite funny.  The ensuring social media advertising that happens is a great commentary that his daughter had been trying to make throughout the movie.

And as I mentioned, the very last scene in the movie is subject to many interpretations.  I interpreted it literally, while others explained it symbolically to me.  I would be curious to hear from you and what you thought of the ending.

In the end, though odd, the Monkey highly recommends this movie.  Clearly Keaton has not lost his acting chops.  I’m looking forward to the sequel to Beetlejuice, which I understand he has agreed to star in.

Out of five bananas, the Monkey gives this four.  Check it out!

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