Fascinating “Birdman” Flies, But Doesn’t Soar
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This film review was written by Evans Donnell.
“The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then – that’s it. Don’t hang around.” – Billy Wilder
Alejandro González Iñárritu is nothing if not very earnest in his storytelling – Biutiful, Babel and 21 Grams are more than enough proof of that. And his piercingly funny-angry comedy-drama Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is certainly that – exhaustively so as it turns out when its 119 minutes are done. But while this fascinating bird does fly it ultimately doesn’t soar thanks to a third act where the real ending is preceded by flightless fowls.
Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton, playing his first lead role in a feature since 2008’s The Merry Gentleman) is a washed-up Hollywood actor who once played the superhero Birdman in a highly successful movie series (yes, the comparison to Batman is obvious, though not autobiographical) before abruptly leaving the franchise 20 years ago in search of something better. Now as his career lingers on death watch this Don Quixote of the acting profession (hence the movie’s subtitle) hopes to revitalize it by directing and starring in an adaptation of Raymond Carver‘s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” on the Broadway stage at the St. James Theatre.
Evans Donnell is the chief theater, film and opera critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He wrote reviews and features about theater, opera and classical music for The Tennessean from 2002 to 2011. He was the theater, film and opera critic for ArtNowNashville.com from 2011 to 2012. Donnell has also contributed to The Sondheim Review, Back Stage, The City Paper (Nashville), the Nashville Banner, The (Bowling Green, Ky.) Daily News and several other publications since beginning his professional journalism career in 1985 with The Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat. He was selected as a fellow for the 2004 National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) arts journalism institutes for theater and musical theater at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2006 and classical music and opera at the Columbia University School of Journalism in 2009. He has also been an actor (member of Actors Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA), founding and running AthensSouth Theatre from 1996 to 2001 and appearing in Milos Forman’s “The People vs Larry Flynt” among other credits. Donnell is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (www.americantheatrecritics.org).