It’s pretty clear the end of the year is coming fast; studios are releasing all their Oscar bait. Add to the list Alejandro Iñárritu’s (Amores Perros, 21 Grams) Birdman. It features some powerhouse acting in the service of a lot of actorly navel-gazing.
Michael Keaton plays Riggan, a version of himself — a former Batman-like superhero star who has slid into obscurity and is now trying to salvage his career by writing, directing and starring in a Raymond Carver adaptation on Broadway. Iñárritu keeps this from swerving into familiar territory by planting us in Riggan’s increasingly clouded mind, in which his Birdman alter ego goads him and launches him into flights of magical realism.
The ensemble cast is strong. Keaton shows more range than we’re used to, and Edward Norton (as a pompous Broadway star) is a vivid piece of work. That said, this isn’t everyone’s birdseed. The film dives heavily into inside-showbiz attitudes and banter, and a great deal revolves around the kind of self-absorption actors do so well. It also has one of the most intrusive and irritating scores I’ve heard for a long while. Still, if you’re into this king of thing, Birdman earns its 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.