This is an amazing movie that pushes you along with it, thanks to the long camera pans that often have you looking over someone’s shoulder.
Its close up perspective shows us how the film’s protagonist sees the world. His fantasies blend into gritty reality and become in-distinguishable from it. What’s real and what isn’t becomes an underlying theme.
The theatrical stage vs. the world; a fake gun or a real one; friend or foe; the importance (or lack of it ) of fame; are some of the ways we are called to reflect on different aspects of reality.
Michael Keaton, who is in line for an Oscar for this portrayal of a formerly successful Hollywood action hero attempting a comeback by creating, directing, and playing the lead in a Broadway play, is the lead. Wheels within wheels. What is real and what isn’t. In this mix I ask (as does a theater critic in the film), “ What is the role of art?”
This film is fictional art, and as such it is fantasy. It succeeds in being hugely entertaining and that certainly is part of what one expects from a great film or novel. But when art tries to be more than entertainment, when it questions the basics of human existence, then the artist becomes responsible for the vision portrayed.
It is the vision of Birdman that I find wanting. The entertainment provided by the film, and its excellent acting, directing, camera work, and story line support a dark vision. Fantasy is seen as preferable to reality. Life itself is a drag – art and fantasy are saving graces. What a great movie – another proof that art is the best part of life!
I don’t see art that way. Great art may seem like the best part of life since it is treasured for generations across the globe. But I see art as a golden medal glowing on the chest of humanity. A medal honoring the recipient, just as great art honors human existence with all its pain and suffering. Art which places fantasy above existence may be entertaining, but it does not achieve greatness.
Keaton deserves an Oscar for his acting; but I would not grant Birdman the title “Best Film of the Year”. See it and judge for yourself.