Required Viewing: Birdman

If you thought Michael Keaton seemed unstable in Beetlejuice, prepare to be shocked in Birdman.

Birdman, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, is a brilliant critique of Hollywood, legacy, and our society’s treatment of mental illness. Birdman takes the backstage-drama genre – think All About Eve – and turns it on its head in a way fans of psychological thrillers such as Fight Club and Black Swan will enjoy. This isn’t to say Birdman is all suspense, and no fun, at points the film is downright hilarious, but it also a deeply unsettling, unflinchingly critical character study of all who’s involved.

Edward Norton and Emma Stone, image via bostonglobe.com
Edward Norton and Emma Stone, image via bostonglobe.com

Here’s the premise: Michael Keaton is Riggan Thomson, an aging actor trying to leave his superhero-fame behind (a direct reference to Keaton’s Batman past) in favor of more intellectual, “important,” theatrical pursuits. After a staged accident injuring the show’s weakest actor, Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) takes his place in the show, wreaking havoc in his maniacal quest for theatrical truth. Mike Shiner’s compulsive search for truth on stage leads him to perform drunk, convince his on-and-off-stage girlfriend into having sex as part of the show, and pursue Riggan’s daughter, played by Emma Stone. Norton tackles his character earnestly, expertly, and convincingly. Stone also plays her role as the recovering addict perfectly, allowing her character to be both too smart and too naive for her own good. But it is Keaton in the center of it all, orchestrating his own delusional, shocking circus, that turns Birdman into the sharpest film in theaters now.

Birdman can be seen in theaters across the U.S. The trailer is below:

– Jenny Henderson