For Reel


Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
3 Stars
BirdmanMuch has been made of what seems to be a transition in director Alejandro González Iñárritu from a director of miserablist pictures to a satirist–he’s ditched the unrelenting somber tone of his earlier films for something more humorous, exhilarating, and perhaps even more valid. While that particular trajectory of his art may be true, it disregards the fact that it turns out that Iñárritu isn’t a particularly good satirist. There are a lot of big ideas in Birdman–most of them are shouted in self-important monologues–but little cohesion to any of them. Worst of all, things are delivered in a voice that reads as being just as childishly petty and insecure as Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton). As the film’s villain, Iñárritu has crafted a drama critic so mean-spirited that she threatens to hold the “real” artists down while the pretentious trite that cultured New Yorkers eat up continues to waste theater space. Despite the flaws in the scripting, the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is as dazzling as promised, and the cast (particularly Edward Norton in what is his best role in some time) is enjoyable. It’s a mess of a movie and sometimes absolutely hatable, but it’s hard to discredit just how effectively it casts its spell. If Iñárritu’s thematic ideas aren’t particularly interesting or coherent, his work with Lubezki on the film’s temporality–the apparent single-take is not meant to be confused with real-time–is worthy of study.

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