The movie may be called "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" but it won't do you any good to be ignorant of this new release, already gathering awards buzz for its A-list cast, bizarre script and brilliant cinematography. Almost the entire movie, through tricks of the camera and editing, appears to be one continuous tracking shot.
Starring Michael Keaton as a washed-up former action movie star now setting his sights to the stage, while dealing with a mercurial lead actor (Edward Norton), a worried business partner (Zach Galifianakis) and a freshly rehabbed daughter (Emma Stone), among others, "Birdman" is decidedly offbeat. The man is literally haunted by the specter of his most famous character muttering nasty nothings about what he thinks of the actor's life.
Now that the Alejandro Iñárritu-directed movie is flying into theaters, the critics have spoken. Here's what they have to say about "Birdman."
The More You Know, The Better
"The more you know, the more fun it'll be — all real-life connections fodder for other connections as the film shreds time, fame, family and the difference between movie acting and stage acting. That one-continuous-tracking shot conceit is designed to split the difference, forcing the actors to play through long stretches — no cuts to protect them — as the camera zips after them down hallways, into theaters empty and full, and, at one deliriously funny point, out into a Times Square mobbed with celebrity-chasers. But it's also a stupendously choreographed bit of camerawork, demanding not just for actors who must've been forever ducking into closets and behind furniture, but also for cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the miracle worker who designed those breath-catchingly lengthy tracking shots in Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men, and who figured out how to open Gravity with a 14-minute tour-de-force single take in outer space." -- Bob Mondello, NPR
Stone Gives A Solid Performance
"The side stories swirling around Stone ring with the anger and impatience of youth with age and are among the best. They play out in Sam's fractious relationship with her father and the truth-or-dare rooftop flirtation she takes up with Mike. Truth: Both have their distinct charms." -- Betsy Sharkey, L.A. Times
There's A Lot Going On Here
"Did someone say Icarus? Well, no, that name doesn’t come up in this backstage comedy (and sometimes drama), at least not that I remember, although Mr. Iñárritu and his co-writers (Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo) toss others including Roland Barthes, Jorge Luis Borges and Martin Scorsese. The story is as old as time — the play’s the thing, once again — and unwinds over several dreamily integrated days and nights that take Riggan from his meditative calm through the labyrinthine halls of the St. James in the hours and minutes leading up to the opening, during which (big breath): He rehearses an actor, receives a kiss, throws a punch, downs a drink, smokes a joint, walks a street and waxes poetic, comic, tragic and melodramatic." -- Manohla Dargis, New York Times
Keaton's Not Done
"Keaton is the keystone that keeps Birdman engrossing to the very end. Iñárritu can't completely crystalize the musical beast, but it's the perfect pairing of material to star. Keaton's weathered face, always up close, too close, goes from unhinged to blistering as the world around him crumbles. He can recite Carver or parade down 42nd Street in his tighty whities — it all bursts out in completely organic ways, mirroring the film's one “uncut” take. It's pure cinema. Pure New York. Pure jazz, visualized." -- Matt Patches, IGN
Get Ready For Some Familiar Concepts
"The word that kept springing to mind while I watched Riggan’s struggle, his quest for relevance and acclaim, was petty. He may have elaborate delusions of grandeur—he imagines he has telekinetic powers, the psychic line between him and Birdman blurs in a couple of sky-bound scenes—but they’re all in service of a pretty rudimentary want. Riggan aches to be taken seriously as an artist, and Birdman is about his quixotic, probably doomed crusade for that fulfillment. He clashes with actors and their egos, with a critic and her ego, and with himself and his. It's that kind of story. Strange as the territory may look and sound, it feels familiar." -- Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
"Birdman" hits theaters today.