The term Postmodernism is used very loosely in critical circles. Generally, it is interpreted as a sceptical and cynical look at all aspects of culture, often by highlighting the absurdities and the ridiculousness of that said culture.
Birdman, (or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) is a sceptical and cynical look at two very contrasting mediums, the theatre, and #Cinema, told through the eyes of Riggan Thomson, as portrayed by Michael Keaton. Thomson is what we sensitively refer to as “washed up”, his best days are simply behind him. Once famous for portraying the screen icon “Birdman”, he is not trying to carve a name for himself as a serious playwright and actor, by scripting, directing and appearing in an adaptation of Raymond Carvers “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”.
Along the way, he encounters neurotic attorneys, psychotic method actors, his apathetic, cynical daughter, and an all too familiar voice from the past.
Everyone has commented on the Postmodern casting of Keaton. Postmodern in the sense that Keaton of course portrayed Batman in 1989 and 1992, and has never really been a big star since. Granted, he hasn't been out of work either, and I'm not suggesting Thomson is based on Keaton as a person, but someone in the casting department must have been aware of the synergy created here. It’s an example of the films irreverent, cheeky style. Incidentally, Ed Norton portrays an actor who is notoriously difficult to work with, and insistent on everything being JUST right and “real”. Synergy.
Every scene is beautiful. I don’t use that word lightly, this is a BEAUTIFUL #Film. It glides through every moment, literally and figuratively, with a grace that simply doesn't exist in enough mainstream movies.
I say literally, because the film is edited to appear to take place in mostly one take. There are virtually no cuts; everything appears to unfold in “real time”, even when days and hours pass in the story. You’ll see what I mean. Postmodernism draws our attention to what we’re watching. We’re watching a movie about a play, staged as if it were a play. No fourth walls are broken, but you feel like the characters may have one eye on it at all times. This isn't to imply the film is smug, or trying to prove its own cleverness, it just means it’s confident, and doesn't care who knows it.
Every performance is sublime. Keaton reminds us how brilliant he can be at carrying a whole movie. It’s all in the eyes. Those bitter, pained, weary eyes. Often, a scene with no dialogue will say so much more about the character then any of the chatty moments. Norton gets to be the darkly comic relief, and excels. Emma Stone sells what could have been a deeply unlikeable character, by bringing the sarcasm and cynicism from a dark, scared place. You can all too often hear the scared little girl behind the apathetic teenager..
The delightfully unorthodox jazz drum score that punctuates every moment, as if someone is constantly banging on all the characters minds, is also a touch of pure class.
Don’t wait for the DVD/Blu Ray or Netflix release; go see this on the big screen right now. Stop reading this. Stop reading right in the middle of this sentence your reading now, get out of your house and go see this at the nearest cinema. This is an experience designed to be seen in a big dark, intimate experience. If Birdman isn't on my list of best films of 2015 by the end of the year, I’ll be really quite shocked.