This Birdman Flies!
Sparkling dialog, relentless dizzying camerawork, and story that defies time! As a Carver fan, I hated what Innaritu did to the author. But I loved it for the madness, for the defiance, for the drums, and for the superb ensemble cast.
There will be voices in the theater grumbling about the insanity of the screenplay, the wild structure and the topsy-turvy timeline, but if you allow the drums to guide you, you will enjoy this trip to the movies.
In the movie, Micheal Keaton plays an ex-movie star who has put his everything on the line to make it as a Broadway star. And nothing, nothing seems to be going right. You can taste his failure, his fear, his loneliness...
So it's not by chance that Innaritu chooses Raymond Carver. The man who changed our view of loneliness and depression and all things commonplace in all ordinary people. He gave new meaning to empathy. But the nagging voice in my head says, 'But that is done so badly in the movie, the writers needed to have really read Carver to understand him.' Carver is not fireworks and curse words and melodrama. He is as genuine as his characters - people who know what it is to work in 'non-descript' jobs, living in cheap motels - not at all like Riggin Thompson played by an angry, frustrated Micheal Keaton...
In the original story, The doctor played by Micheal Keaton has spent five years in a seminary before medical school. It alarmed me to hear so many curse words... Hardly something Carver would approve. In fact, here is how Carver himself tells us how to hear the story 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love' Innaritu uses in the movie. And I'm sorry to say, they fail.
But if you are unaware of Carver's stories, then how Innaritu ruins the essence of the original will not matter to you. It will be just a small element of madness in a larger scheme of things.
And what amazing madness! He experiments with a crazy camera that follows the characters relentlessly, never blinking, never stopping, always following the dialog without a pause, and you think that the movie has been shot in a single take. Delightful mostly, but as claustrophobic as the warren of corridors inside the theatre where the whole drama takes place. What glorious drama too! Everyone is a diva and everyone is depressed. Everyone has a secret and everyone is a star. It's like being a pushed into being in the middle of a crisis in an Indian dysfunctional joint family.
The crazy camera will stun you, no doubt. But not at the expense of the characters. Each has been created with so much madness in mind, you want to be able to copy those smart comebacks and use it in your life some time. A casual flirtation between Emma Stone and Edward Norton (how awesome is that!) turns stupendous, and I will try to quote:
'What would you dare to do with me, then?'
'I would gouge your eyes out and put them in my head and then see the world the way you do...'
I was too busy clutching my heart (which was beating so loudly I am sure everyone heard) to notice if the women in the audience had all swooned after hearing something like that, or watch the men in the audience exclaiming about thinking of other things to do with her...
The theater critic who writes reviews from a pub without even watching the play and the frustration of the director of the play, the father-daughter relationship, the love hate relationship between theater and film and more, is brilliantly shown. What touched me is the agony of the man who is still looking for relevance in his own life. And that is why I suppose the movie has been nominated at the Oscars.
If you don't remember the Carver quote at the beginning of the movie ('Did you get what you wanted from this life...'), it's okay. Do notice the little note stuck to the mirror in Riggan's room: A Thing Is A Thing, Not What Is Said About The Thing'
Get off your high horse about Carver and have fun watching this movie and being a little scandalised at the sharp dialog. Devilishly good.