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Wick's Review

Created Nov 09, 2014 05:08PM PST • Edited Dec 28, 2014 04:41PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Really Great 4.5

    Birdman touches many cinematic erogenous zones, making it a guilty treat – a smart one – for cinephiles. Alejandro Iñárritu’s showbiz takedown is also the best theatrically-set movie since, well, maybe forever. OK, not forever, but probably since All About Eve in 1950. Like Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s perfect picture, Iñárritu’s triumph reflects on Hollywood through a Broadway mirror, darkly.

    Michael Keaton heads a raggedly great cast that includes Edward Norton as the best actor on Broadway and Emma Stone as a Hollywood daughter who falls for him. Naomi Watts also glimmers brightly.

    Acting and its perverse privileges, pleasures and professional putdowns are the wider subjects of Iñárritu’s script, written with four others. Keaton and Norton play star actors who have reached different summits of theatrical success, while nearly every other character is still looking for their first secure step up. Morality isn’t high on any of their priority lists. In fact, Dysfunction and Destructiveness should get cast credit.

    Love the theater? Find celebrity actors absurdly fascinating? Expect Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) to be an amply satisfying experience, with your cinematic erogenous zones well stimulated.

  3. Really Great 4.5

    Michael Keaton’s performance resonates because he’s the onetime superstar who headlined Batman, 1989’s biggest movie and the vanguard of our super-heroic movie age. Keaton even employs the deep Batman voice as the onetime superstar who headlined the faux Birdman, Birdman 2 & – wait for it – Birdman 3. This on-screen / off-screen duality brings Sunset Blvd. to mind. Cinematic erogenous zones, remember.

    More prosaically, Keaton’s trademark combination of nervous energy and comedic acting chops are used to great effect as a former action hero who can’t get his iconic character’s voice out of his head.

    Emma Stone comes across as younger than she’s seemed in a while as his rehabbing daughter. While not a stunning beauty, Stone nonetheless continues to impress as an actress with utterly compelling charisma.

    Edward Norton gives the best performance as an arrogant stage actor who’s equally committed to his art and himself. Norton underwhelms at first and then deepens his charismatic effect as the movie progresses.

    Naomi Watts jumps off screen as Norton’s flame. Watts, an Iñárritu fave, also appeared in 21 Grams.

    Notable Supporters
    • Zach Galifianakis as Keaton’s stressed out business manager: This mostly straight role is a refreshing change for the usually madcap Galifianakis.
    • Andrea Riseborough makes a strong impression as a sexy actress who mostly sees through Keaton’s superstar schtick.
    • Amy Ryan as Keaton’s ex-wife
  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Really Great 4.5
  6. Female Costars Great 4.0
  7. Male Costars Great 4.0
  8. Really Great 4.5

    Alejandro Iñárritu’s triumphant takedown of current American cultural mores would be impressive from a native filmmaker, let alone a foreign one. He and his four cowriters start with the fat target of moviestars invading Broadway, using that as a vehicle to explore the glimmer and toll of stardom, the nature of art and the lingering power of fantasy. Bravo.

    A word about the parenthetic reference in the film’s full title – (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Head-scratching at first, it becomes all so clear at the end.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0
  10. Play Really Great 4.5
  11. Music Great 4.0
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Notable Credits

    • 28 stuntmen
    • Dozen people to make the bird suit
  13. Content
  14. Risqué 2.2
  15. Sex Titillating 1.8
  16. Violence Fierce 1.8
  17. Rudeness Profane 3.0
  18. Glib 1.3

    Warning: Slight Spoiler Follows

    I’m rating Birdman’s Physical and BioReality as natural, since the star’s superpowers are evident only when he’s alone, creating a mystery about whether they’re real, albeit an easy mystery to solve as the film proceeds. IOW, it’s all in his head. Mostly…

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.8
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0

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