Playing on the Pretentious
It has been twenty years since he became famous for playing "Birdman" in the movie franchise but for actor Riggan Thomas (Michael Keaton - Batman) he just can't escape from that role not only because that is all people remember him for but because the character still consumes him. Now having flitted past middle age he is hoping to re-invent himself as a serious actor on the stage with a version of a Raymond Carver story which he will not only act in but also direct. With everything he has invested in this project it is stressful times for Riggan as there is tension amongst the cast and nothing seems to go right as they do previews.
Do you know why I first and fore mostly review movies? It is because ever since I was a young child watching the likes of "Superman" and the "Sound of Music" on UK TV I enjoyed the entertainment. It was never about the artistic styling of a director or the intelligence of a script it was and still is that basic desire of being entertained. It is why I have to say that despite winning 4 Oscars "Birdman" ended up being a struggle for me as I was watching it. In truth I feared I was going to struggle with it as there is its full title "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" which to be honest sounds both pretentious and pointless.
Now to be fair, as I think back to watching "Birdman", I can't deny that it is an incredibly skilful movie with a lot of long takes with scenes which must have been choreographed and rehearsed till those involved could do it in their sleep. I also can't deny that the script to "Birdman" certainly has some intelligence to it with various bits reflecting real life from an actor unable to escape a role he played years ago to another actor who has to feel his role causing issues for those he works with. In fairness the more I think about it the more I appreciate the writing and I certainly have to say that all the actors delivered fine and extremely committed performances.
The thing is that it comes down to some thing I was taught at a young age; just because you can doesn't mean you should. As such the whole long take styling with a camera almost floating like a balloon in a scene, circling the action and then going close in on actors face all ended up making "Birdman" feel like style over substance. It almost started to feel like a movie using the styling as a gimmick and as such it ends up distracting you from the actual story. Yes it certainly gives "Birdman" a different feel and I can imagine what "Birdman" would have been like done by someone more traditional but it didn't appeal to me as it ended up a little pretentious.
What this all boils down to is that admittedly "Birdman" improves the more I think about it with a clever storyline and a skilful production. But for me the whole styling of the movie ended up dominating it and whilst some might enjoy it I found the whole floating camera feel a case of style over substance with in fairness some of that substance being just as pretentious.