So, we have Michael Keaton levitating in only his underpants in the middle of his dressing room, during the first clip of the film, sort of talking to himself, or is he talking to his alter ego/tormenting soul, or is someone actually talking to him. Either way, we are immediately invited into this intensely dark presence of mental incapacity within Riggan Thomson’s, played by Keaton, slow, delirious breakdown as a washed-up actor trying to revive, and adapt to a new, less comic-book character-driven, career, ironically, through a Broadway adaptation show.
Irony, in fact, plays a pivotal role throughout the film, from which a great portion of its comedy derives from, most heavily represented through Riggan’s portrayal of Raymond Carver’s Mel, when in actual fact he is spewing his life’s woes to the ignorant audience, right to the dramatic climax of the opening night performance, all the while denying his mental instabilities in the big bad world of showbiz. So, it is a play within a film, ricocheting between three stories, Raymond Carver’s ‘What We Talk About When We Talk about Love’, the actors’ lives during the build-up to their opening performance, and then solely Riggan’s psychological torment, at the hands of his Birdman character/alter-ego, which also happens to be another film. So, González Iñárritu has invited us into a destabilisation of conventional modernist art, and opened audience’s eyes to a postmodernist style of intertextuality and bricolage.
The story plays with our imaginations, the enigmas of higher powers within the capacity of the ordinary human. So, can we all just simply levitate into the sky and fly across the city of New York, freeing ourselves from soul-attacking shackles, or is that a mere hallucination of drunken loitering? González Iñárritu gives Riggan all the power in the world, from levitation to telekinesis, but forbids him the mere control of his own life, as the very attribution of these powers is due to his critically-invasive double identity, voiced, and soon visualised near the end, as his alter-ego, Birdman.
Emma Stone and Edward Norton, respectively nominated for Oscar’s in supporting categories, along with the many other accolades Keaton has already, and is yet to, receive, played into their subversive, destructive and partially delusional characterisations exceptionally well, heightening secondary character’s broken identities, just as much as the protagonist. Its hard to find a fault in a film openly showcasing dysfunction as both, comedic and dramatic in the same sitting, and actually doing it well enough to garner many of the prestigious honours, like Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA and Academy Awards.
The cast and crew of Birdman push the boundaries of generic filmmaking to stage immense creativity originating from a rebellious postmodern release of humanity into a world of the unknown. Instead of showing us what we want to see, we are prohibited from witnessing Riggan’s final soaring into his own, but not before telling his destructive other to fuck off, and simply have to concoct our individual conclusion of events from Stone’s embellished wide-eyed expression of awe as she gazes up, smiling at, what we assume to be, his well-deserved hurrah of liberating peace.
To conclude, Birdman is a creatively conceived deterioration, developed into a rebellion, of the mind, body and soul, delivered through a postmodern tone of ironic hilarity, the typical psychological drama film – a hybridisation of sorts.
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