First, this intellectually active, ensemble showbiz dramedy earned all the praise it’s getting. The cinematography is unparalleled, the acting uniformly superb, the editing a superhuman feat. The script is sharp, the comedy angry, the percussive soundtrack spot-on. And the self-aware concept of having a former Hollywood superhero portrayer trying to regain his acting cred playing a former Hollywood superhero portrayer trying to regain his acting cred is pure genius.
Though Michael Keaton didn’t get an Oscar this year, it wasn’t for lack of effort or talent. But you don’t read this column for the gushy praise, so let’s look at the other side of the coin. Despite the dazzle, the showy direction distracts from the narrative. Alejandro González Iñárritu makes this gimmicky joyride work because he’s a pro, but it still has a film-school, “look at me!” feel. None of the characters is particularly likable. Of course they’re not meant to be, but the upshot is there’s little emotional punch.
This will be remembered, if at all, as a brilliant technical experiment. Bottom line: It’s one of those movies that are easier to admire than to enjoy. Worth seeing? Absolutely. Best Picture? No. Japanese title: Birdman arui wa (Muchi ga Motarasu Yoki-senu Kiseki). (120 min)