10 November 2014


What do you get when a largely-forgotten actor who formerly played a superhero played by a not-forgotten-but-no-longer-top-draw actor who formerly played a superhero? Who's haunted (or is it a recurring hallucination?) by the the deep voice of his superhero past? Who sets out to write, direct, and star in a Broadway adaptation of a short story by mid-twentieth century American writer Raymond Carver about what we say about love, when he's never loved?

You get Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Starring Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, the washed up and broke former star of the Bird(not Bat)man superhero series of films, Birdman is a very dark comedy sending up the pretensions of millionaire Hollywood stars, affected Broadway actors, and pretentious New York Times theater critics. I have no idea if any of these folks are as dysfunctional as represented but even if only half as vicious as portrayed, it's a sick world out there.

The film's crudity and vulgarity, although appropriate for its vision of the worlds of screen and stage, are off-putting. It's culminating vision--suicide after reconciliation--is hardly comedic in the classical sense. Yet the screenplay, acting, directing, and editing are superb. Extraordinarily well crafted in the service of a vision of life saved from thorough-going tragedy in death, Birdman is a powerful film that most certainly is not for everyone.

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