Everyone flipped over Boyhood. I mean, I watched it. I found it poignant, and applaud it for what it stands for as a work in its vision, ingenuity, and the commitment it must have taken through the 12-year process. However, and this may be because I’m not a boy, and this also may be because I don’t have children of my own yet, but it didn’t resonate with me.
But now to Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). For one, I’m a huge Raymond Carver fan and a student of his work. The adapted short story as the play-within-the-film, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” is a powerful choice and stands as a fascinating foundation. I’d even say that some of Carver himself runs through the veins of Birdman, in that the concept of love in its many forms is a central theme; but I would strongly disagree with Jonathan Leaf (for Forbes) who writes that “Birdman betrays Raymond Carver.” Not that I believe anyone staunchly adhered to the original short, but it’s actually moot in my point of view, as the film was not intended to be an adaptation of Carver’s work. It was the backbone, but not the heart of it.
The reason why I love Birdman is in its entirety, as a work. The acting was magnificent. Michael Keaton delivered a gorgeous performance imbued with…well, truth. Some say this is, in part, from his experience portraying Batman. I don’t even care. That helps, sure. Everyone works out of experience. You can’t escape experience; but I believe Riggan wrestles with something we all, as creators and humans, face, namely: vulnerability, the desire to be validated by others, and downright loved. (As an anecdote, Keaton will always be Dogberry to me from Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing; I couldn’t care less about his role as Batman).
The supporting cast, too, was awesome. But the filming of the movie reached divinity. Blocking, timing: these are all things that are paramount in stage work, but that don’t always have dire consequences in film production. However, the long takes that contribute to the seamless, seemingly-single-shot scene left little to improvisation, and were drenched in intention (in the best way possible).
I haven’t even gotten to Alejandro González Iñárritu. He brought such a genius and dynamism to this film. One of the most important parts, for me, was the quality of magical realism he gave Riggan and this imagined world. Oh, sure, he’s moving things around with his mind. There is a great Latin American heritage that deals with magical realism. I spent a semester studying this, and Iñárritu joins the ranks of Borges, García Márquez, Allende, Esquivel, and others in doing so in a way where we all suspend our belief and board that bridge between magical and ordinary, without question.
“Surrealism comes from the reality of Latin America.” -García Márquez.
I just, I can’t even try to be cool about it anymore. I loved Birdman. I can’t think of a film I’ve seen in the last decade that fulfilled me this entirely. Was that an oversell?