Is ‘Birdman’ worth all the hype?

In a nutshell? Yes.

When a movie is put on a pedestal and raved about, I’m iffy about how that’ll affect my personal viewing experience.  I worry that I’ll go in with the planted idea that what I’m about to see is a great film. And while some films have failed to live up to their hype this yearBirdman flew far and beyond my expectations for it.

Directed by Alejandro González Inárritu, this 2014 hit narrates the story of Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton), a washed up Hollywood actor who saw the height of his career as Birdman, a fictional character in a movie series he starred in decades earlier. Attempting to revive his acting career, Thomson sets out to write, direct, and star — alongside stage actor Mike (Edward Norton) and first timet Lesley (Naomi Watts) — in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” with the help of his best friend and producer, Jake (Zach Galifianakis) and his assistant Sam (Emma Stone), who also happens to be Thomson’s daughter.

The true gem of Birdman was the manipulation of the formal elements. I’m still shitting myself over the camera work in this movie! Inárritu and his team — which included cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki — did a masterful job at creating the illusion that the movie was all shot in one long take; a tracking shot to be specific. Having taken a film class or two in film, I couldn’t but marvel at what I was seeing. To think that it almost didn’t happen! It’s a beautifully-shot piece that is just magnificent to watch. I would not be shocked if Birdman  walked away with trophies for Best Editing and Best Cinematography during this year’s Academy Awards on February 22nd.

One of the earliest things I noticed was  how similar one aspect of the film was to 2010’s incredible Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky. The portrayal of the performer and his/her pressures to be perfect, loved, and admired is a theme both films cover, albeit Black Swan, with the internal conflict between the White Swan and the Black Swan, made for better psychological conflict than that between Thomson and Birdman — himself.

Yet another amazing feature (I’m starting to sound like a broken record) of the film is the score. The play between diegetic and non-diegetic sound mixed with the editing and cinematography is a spectacle in itself. That said, I wasn’t all that crazy about most of the score.

In a grander scheme, Birdman makes a statement about the human condition, about our need to find our place in the world and find a reason to be excited, whether through exposing ourselves in public, or dancing on the fense of life and death for the thrill of it, or even getting a hard-on in front of a crowd of 800. In its essence, the film conveys our need for love, for understanding, for each other, and above all else, for release.

I recommend this movie to all film fans. It’s definitely worth a watch, and absolutely one of the best of 2014.

RATING: 87/100

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