Sunday, November 30, 2014
Michael Keaton played Batman and Jack Nicholson played the Joker. Holy 1989, Batman. Remember? Dark, moody and freaking great for those of us who grew up watching Adam West cornpone his way thru 3 seasons of classic TV.
But in the past 25 years, Keaton has been a character actor. You know, the guy who shows up and you go oh yeah, I remember him.
Birdman pretty much tells his story. He's a former superhero movie star who has faded into obscurity and is pushing 60. He has decided to write,direct and star in a Broadway play to revive his career. He's all in on this and there is no Plan B. And oh yeah, he may or may not have actual superpowers. He also has a demon who constantly tells him what a complete piece of shit he is. Oh yeah, this guy is a mess.
Will his last shot at a career work? Well it won't be easy as Keaton has to deal with his manager (Zach Galafanakis), his cast, his eye rolling daughter (Emma Stone) and his ex-wife, perhaps the greatest ex wife ever (Amy Ryan). Not to mention a NY Times theater critic who hates his guts and promises she will destroy him no matter what.
The journey to opening night is a trip. If you didn't think actors are nuts, you will after watching this. Trust me I know they are nuts, I live with one. They hate themselves and thus, they play other people. Not exactly Freudian but certainly the norm.
Keaton and his demon are great. He is a frantic man holding on by his nails. But as great as Keaton is in this role, goddamn, Ed Norton is absolutely stunning as the egomaniacal theater actor who comes in to save/destroy his play. Norton is as controlled crazy as any screen character has been in years. He fucks up previews, he gets aroused onstage, he gets drunk onstage, he asks to be threatened with a real gun. He is impossible to not watch.
Naomi Watts is the insecure actress who constantly needs reassurance. Andrea Riseborough is the 4th member of the cast who is also Keaton's gal pal.
Will this play work? Not a chance if the critic has her way. Her disdain of movie actors is apparent. But Keaton is so desperate, so backed up against the wall, he will do anything to win her approval.
What will he do? Will his "superpowers" kick in?
Birdman is fascinating. An almost documentary of backstage Broadway. See it.
And about those superpowers. There's a scene involving a taxi driver that will tell you all you need to know about his superpowers.