In Birdman Michael Keaton plays a desperately successful actor riding a new play into an uncertain destiny. His fame weighs on the new show he is opening on Broadway.
Critics unimpressed with his selling out to the big time lurk in the saloons of Time Square waiting to pounce. They are ready to fell this bombastic super star for daring to descend from Hollywood back to Broadway where he has the nerve to write, direct and star in a new show. It is a desecration.
He is rotten with doubt, miserable in his quest and racked with fear and delusion. If that is not enough the whole stinking mess backstage is hysterically pathologic to the point of being so chaotic as to be hilarious.
If we could rip open the actors head without mortally wounding him then look inside we would see that thing we were worried might kill him is waiting just the other side of his skull. It is his date with immortality.
There are a constellation of other players and people in the film. They are all there in the libidinous tumult that is opening a new show.
None of that matters so much as the fact that Keaton is in a creative corner of his own making, a predicament that took a lifetime to conjure up; a pyrotechnic head trip in wide screen living color. It’s career daredevilry in Panavision.
Birdman: The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is a send up to all of us who awaken to the self-inflicted fix we are caught in at this latter stage of our careers. We are suckered into taking one more foolish bite of the apple.
Now me, I am just back from being on stage six nights a week for two months. I thought I might be cracking under the pressure. I thought maybe there was something wrong, that I no longer had it. That’s what unconsciousness and questing for immortality will do.
As the lyric goes, “The road gets rougher, it’s lonelier and it’s tougher…” And then I come home to this brilliant film… Birdman!