By Andrew Russell
Birdman surrounds a play made and starred in by Riggan, a once beloved celebrity who played a superhero in the late 80’s and early 90’s, as he struggles to bring together a Broadway play as a last attempt at relevance and what he considers to be true art.
Have you ever watched a movie and realized that the scene you’re watching is being done in one take, with no cutaways? Imagine having that feeling right at the beginning of a movie. And five or ten minutes later you realize it still hasn’t cutaway. And then you realize it still hasn’t cutaway. And then after about an hour with still no cutaways, you decide to take the movie for what it is, which is a two hour single-shot movie.
Let’s start with the most apparent aspect of this film, which is the directing style. While the movie isn’t literally one shot, it’s edited perfectly to look so. It would’ve been impossible to do it as a literal one-shot film since it spans New York city streets over the course of a couple days. The scale of this movie is simply too large to have it be one shot, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Birdman. Many of the scenes were done in one take and lasted about 15 minutes, and when they weren’t the movie earns extra points for making it appear as if they’re done in one take. Only one movie has been done in one shot that I know of, it’s an Italian film that follows a man around a museum. I’d rather watch Birdman.
Since this movie surrounds a play, it’s fitting to have it be one shot. It makes the movie ebb and flow in ways I can’t compare to anything else. The flow makes the character interaction seem natural and random rather than set up. It makes you feel like a stagehand on the set of the play, and you have a front-row seat to these people’s lives.
Riggan, who this movie predominantly follows, is played by Michael Keaton, who played Batman in the 80’s and early 90’s. With this in mind, you have to wonder how much of himself Keaton put into this role, as he and the character both portrayed legendary superheroes making them legendary at the time as well.
Riggan’s internal struggles are much more real with him dealing with his ego, his fears, and his doubts with the work he’s doing, which force him to face the question of whether to sell out and become the loved superhero once again, or strive for what he sees as art in his play and the theater. His external struggles come mostly in the form of other characters around him. His daughter Sam, who is played by Emma Stone, and Mike, who is played by Edward Norton, cause him the most anguish on set.
Sam and Mike are both diverse and bring out two different sides in the main character Riggan. Sam shows the part of Riggan that wants to be relevant again, since Riggan was not there for his daughter when she was younger, and now that he tries to be he is often dismissed as he is in the media. Mike Represents the part of Riggan that wants to keep his dignity and become a true actor on stage rather than sell out and become Birdman again.
The internal struggle of relevance is personified a few times throughout the movie as Riggan hears the voice of Birdman in the back of his head whenever he’s alone. The voice makes you question Riggan’s sanity, as it should.
There are many moments where you’re not sure whether or not this movie is fantasy. It’s all part of the experience, and these moments symbolize many of the themes that this movie fits into it.
All this being said, I’ll say that Birdman is worthy of its Oscar win for best picture and Golden Globe win for best comedy.
Contact Andrew Russell at firstname.lastname@example.org