The year 2014 had ambitious, mega scaled, highly anticipated movies, such as: Christopher Nolan’s visually poetic and complicated Interstellar, David Fincher’s edgy adaptation of best selling novel Gone Girl, the witty A-class actors The Grand Budapest Hotel, the epically fulfilling X Men: Days of Future Past. Yet at year’s end, one movie swept us off our feet: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtues of Ignorance) Not only that: it also swept away four Oscars.
Strangely, the movie wasn’t a media sensation or overly hyped as its releasing date was nearing, and it had a limited release in the United States.
The simple premise, conveyed by perfect performances and extraordinary directing, is the satirical and smothering story of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a forgotten actor who rose to fame for portraying a superhero character in the early 90s known as Birdman; but his career spiraled down ever since, and he refuses to admit that his primetime had passed, so we watch him during the finale stages of a play he writes, directs and starts in. Obsessed to reclaim his fame, he endures difficulties and challenge to fulfill his quest; problems with his troubled daughter Sam (Emma Stone), struggles steering his play-actor Mike (Edward Norton), and a snotty scornful critique that swore to slay the play in reviews.
Yet his most daunting demon is the inner villainous voice of his alter-ego: Birdman, who continually belittles Riggan and questions his efforts and his merits as an actor.
The characters of the movie speak out Riggan’s doubts and fears. They all were edgy and tense, and we the audience experience as the camera that kept following the actors closely in one long shot in the narrow corridors of the theater and back-alleys of New York City; even shots in public felt too close, as if the director is shoving us to walk in the shoes of the characters, and endure what they endure.
Riggan is driven by his need to be loved, but according to his ex-wife, he confuses the perception of being loved with being admired; and this aligns well with the opening remark in the movie:
"And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth."
This drive is the curse of Riggan: he constantly feels smothered, on the verge of being forgotten. The world around him had moved on but he didn’t; he ignores social media; he believes in being artistic productions while the world asks for sensational entertainment; he dismisses the cynical remarks of his family, friends and foes.
There were certain elements in plot that I couldn’t understand: the falling meteor at the begging and ending of the movie; does it resemble Riggan’s rise and fall? And the ending, after Riggan shot his face, did he shot his nose? Or did he actually die, and we watching his glimpses of his after-life?
This A-Class movie needs to be viewed twice: to capture the parallels between Thomas Riggan and Michal Keaton, the battle Hollywood and Broadway, entertainment and art, the deep symbolism, real life analogies, and the bitter mockeries at current celebrities.