Michael Keaton pulls out all the stops as a washed-up movie star making a frazzled bid for artistic credibility in this hectic, hilarious black comedy.
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Oscar-winning Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is cleverly shot in one seemingly unbroken take.
It ricochets around the scuffed backstage dressing rooms and corridors of a Broadway theatre, which is where Keaton’s former Hollywood hotshot is trying to shed his past as an iconic cinematic superhero by producing, directing and acting in a dour, arty play. His fellow actors, family and fans throw all manner of crises in his path, but his biggest problem is his nagging alter ego who refuses to let him pursue his dream.
Propelled by a jittery jazz drum score by Antonio Sanchez, this movie hurtles at breakneck pace between farcical comedy and neurotic fantasy. It’s a stroke of genius to cast Keaton, whose own superhero past as Batman (he played the character in Tim Burton’s 1989 and 1982 films) gives an extra comic fillip to his daring, vanity-free performance.
His co-stars are tremendous, too, notably Emma Stone as his damaged, fresh-out-of-rehab daughter and Edward Norton as a pompous Broadway actor who takes Method realism to absurd lengths. Also making a strong impression and filling out the cast are Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis and Andrea Riseborough.