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Trivia / Goofs
Summary / Analysis
Times of India
Riggan Thomson, an erstwhile superhero superstar, post a disillusioning spell orchestrates his mighty comeback with a Broadway play based on Raymond Carver's 1981 classic, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
His rendition as the writer-actor in the play pushes him towards a journey of self-exploration excavating his latent doubts, fear of failure, scrambled personal relationships and the brooding question - whether he will be able to resurrect his image and fly beyond the fleshed persona of 'Birdman'.
It's a riveting portrayal of a fading superhero star who is used as a prop to understand the workings of prestige, power games and how fame's intoxication can soon wear out into futility and redundancy. Michael Keaton brings palpability to this tailor-made role, in which he seems to mirror his prior experience of playing Batman in two successful stints, only to bow out of it over artistic principles.
Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu infuses in his tale a keen understanding of the flip side of glamour's alluring world and brings it alive on celluloid without making it somber, lacing the story with sinister humour and shrewd wit, as jazz drums compliment the film's tempo and Lubezki's cinematography adds drama to the tapestry.
As this tale moves sharply through cataclysmic failures of its preview nights, the venom in Birdman's omnipresent voice strengthens, driving the narrative towards its rather expected, nevertheless, powerful climax.
The film is memorable for its scenes - Sam (Emma Stone)'s outburst rupturing Riggan (Keaton)'s bubble full of pretentious airs, the one where Mike (Edward Norton) tells Sam how stage is the only place where he can be genuine and finally Riggan's bitter face-off with a critic who gets him weary by pointing out that he is a celebrity and not an actor, are all instances of its nuanced, observant writing.
What ups the enigma here is Keaton's power packed performance ably supported by the terrific Norton and the phenomenal Stone. Watts, Riseborough and Galifianakis are pitch-perfect in their bits.
Birdman, in its 122 minutes' runtime, transforms into exhilarating cinema that gives a heady rush.
The film was largely shot inside St James Theatre, located in New York’s Broadway Street.
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s is known to be a rigorous task master and his shooting style required the cast to prepare and perform 15 pages of dialogues in one go.
It may sound shocking but 'Birdman' was shot in less than a month's time.
The film’s editing, too, was wrapped up in two weeks only.
The jazz drum beats used as the film’s soundtrack and background score was composed by Antonio Sanchez did not qualify for the Academy Awards.
Keaton and Norton jotted down the slips of their co-actors. Since the takes were unusually long, it was interesting that the actors made many mistakes during filming with Emma Stone making maximum mistakes and Zach Galifianakis, the least.
A major portion of 'Birdman' was shot inside Broadway's St. James Theatre. The entire cast of the film including Michael Keaton had to adapt to Alejandro González Iñárritu's rigorous shooting style, which required them to perform up to 15 pages of dialogue at a time while hitting precisely choreographed marks.
Given the unusual style of filming long takes, Edward Norton and Michael Keaton kept a running tally of flubs made by the actors. Emma Stone made the most mistakes, Zach Galifianakis made the fewest.
Michael Keaton calls this film his most challenging till date. He also revealed that the personality of his character Riggan is the most dissimilar to himself of any he has ever played.
Before shooting of the film began, Alejandro González Iñárritu sent his cast a picture of Philippe Petit walking on the tightrope between the Twin Towers. He wrote, "Guys, this is the movie we are doing. If we fall, we fail."
The film has been edited to look like a single continuous shot.
The rehearsals were done so well that the editing of the movie was wrapped up in just two weeks.
Twice in the film, it was mentioned that St James Theatre accommodates 800 people when it’s actual capacity is nearly 1700.
In a scene where Sam is telling her father about a thing she learnt at rehab center, she mentions that the earth is 6 billion years old but most scientists concede that earth is actually only 4.5 billion years old only.
The viral video of Riggan walking around in Times Square captures him from all angles which isn’t possible for a single person.
The film begins with Riggan Thomson (Keaton)meditating in his white undies, suspended in air. Riggan, in the dark comedy Birdman, slips into the role of a former Hollywood star, who after walking out of the third installment of his popular comic book franchise could never attain the same stature and power. Battling failures, anger issues and the constant voice of the screen character he had denounced in search of substantial work, Riggan is hounded by his inner ghosts as he prepares for his Broadway show based on American writer-poet Raymond Craver's 1981 classic What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Later in the film we are told that Craver's appreciation of a young Riggan's stage performance was the reason why he plunged into acting.
Riggan's ambitious project is helmed by him and his team comprises of his daughter Sam (Emma Stone), a fresh-out-of-rehab drug addict who becomes his assistant, his girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough), his producer and close friend Jake (Zach Galifianaki) and the actress Lesley (Naomi Watts).
A day before their first preview night, the play's parallel lead suffers head injury, much to Riggan's relief, who couldn't stand his loud, over-dramatised acting. Lesley brings on board with them her friend and former love interest Mike (Edward Norton), a rehearsed method actor who is a hit in the critics' circle. Mike's impressive first act buys Riggan into roping him in but soon he realizes that Mike is a largely superficial man who comes alive only on stage.
The first two previews end badly with Mike's gin getting the better of him in one and his attempt to rape Lesley concluding the second one on a dismal note. A front page tabloid interview leads Riggan to believe that Mike's agenda is hogging the limelight away from him. Over a couple of drinks, after a failed preview night, Mike gloats to Riggan about how Birdman is a forgotten character. Irony plays its part when people come to get themselves clicked with the Birdman star just then.
With every failed preview, the voice of his alter-ego gets more bitter, more venomous, suggesting he makes a re-entry into his Birdman life of superficial success where despite work becoming redundant, the monetary benefits are abundant. The heavy voice constantly demotivates him resulting in him smashing his make-up room completely after one instance.
When he goes looking for solace to his daughter Sam, he realizes she despite being fresh out of rehab. She continues to smoke pot. The two have a heated argument resulting in Sam telling her father that the play is a project intended to make him feel self-important again.
Meanwhile, Mike and Sam get better acquainted with each other. The two indulge in elaborate discussions and Mike reveals to her a lot more than just his superficial side. He tells her that the only place he is himself is on the stage; everything else is a put up extension that he dons. Before one of his performances, Riggan happens to see Sam and Mike fooling around. In a fit of frustration and anger, he mistakenly locks himself outside and is compelled to walk around Times Square in just his underwear. That does him good as he becomes a social media sensation for being bold enough to pull it off.
Riggan runs into the opinionated and powerful critic Tabitha Dickinson at a bar where she threatens him with a negative review. Tabitha is averse to stars and celebrities who pretend to be actors and she swears to tear apart the play. A relatively high Riggan loses his calm demeanor and yells back at her which strengthens Tabitha's resolve.
Riggan gets high that night and the next morning he wakes up with the voice of Birdman overpowering him completely. At that cue, his hallucinations are stronger than ever and Birdman convinces him to revive the franchise and star in it.
On the opening night of the Broadway show, Riggan and his estranged wife share a comforting moment and he tells her how he had tried to kill himself after cheating on her. For the play's final act that night, Riggan uses a real gun and ends up shooting his nose in attempt to kill himself. Though he is saved, he had to undergo a cosmetic surgery for his nose. Tabitha gives the play a rave review and calls it a defining work. When Riggan's daughter Sam comes to visit him in the hospital, the two hug. She leaves him on the hospital bed for a while and comes back to find him missing. With the window open, she first looks down at the street and then at the skies and smiles.