Michael Keaton soars in an imaginative, enjoyably bitchy, highly meta comedy
What happens to actors who play superheroes? Birdman, the arthouse comedy from Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Biutiful, Amores Perros), answers that so fully it may never be asked again. Michael Keaton’s performance as ex-leading man Riggan Thomson sees this former star reborn. Best loved as the title character in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, Keaton was arguably the definitive Batman – superior to the muttering Bale – and, cunningly, that provides the kickoff for his award-worthy turn here.
Riggan was Birdman, a popular Hollywood superhero, before his time passed. Fans won’t let him forget his iconic role, even as he attempts a serious career second act with a Broadway staging of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. His alter-ego urges him to sell-out and get back to real fame: 'Shave off that pathetic goatee. Get some surgery. 60's the new 30, motherfucker!' Riggan is, however, gifted beyond our ken – not that this helps him with his relationships, all of which are troubled, and that includes his relationship with his own mind.
While the fluid script channels Fight Club, the stellar cast bring the tart – no, acidic – dialogue to life. Emma Stone is wonderfully bitchy as Riggan’s rehabbed daughter Sam who has the hots for Mike, a superstar theatrical actor/asshole played by Edward Norton. Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough and Zach Galifianakis have their moments, with Lindsay Duncan gifted a gob-smacking cameo as an embittered theatre critic. All is mesmerisingly photographed by Oscar-winner Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity). Birdman will astound some and irritate others, but there’s no doubt that it’s packed full of that good old-fashioned thing films often lack: imagination.
General release from Thu 1 Jan.