Monday, February 16, 2015

Best of 2014, #4: Birdman

Be a Good God: There’s so much interesting stuff going on in this movie that it’s hard for any one reviewer to cover it all, so I’d like to focus in on one element that I haven’t seen many people discuss: The hero’s delusional belief that he has raging telekinesis that disappears when anyone else is looking.

On many layers, this is a movie about power-fantasies: An actor agrees to play out the public’s superhero power fantasy, but then he feels powerless to stop, so he rebels and creates his own power-trip in the form of a Broadway vanity project, only to find himself humbled and overpowered at every turn, but in a way that he finds ironically liberating.

Co-writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu implies that our current infatuation with superhero movies isn’t a wish for power we don’t have, it’s a confirmation of the power-fantasies we’re already living every day, certain that our faces are masks, hiding the secretly-omnipotent beings within, just waiting to be revealed to the world. Only by acting on our delusions and tearing down the screen that separates us from real life (as Keaton does by subjecting himself to a live audience) do we discover that no, we’re neither super nor heroes...and that’s probably for the best, because it’s hard enough to just be human.

When art is made, who has the power? The writer? The director? The producers? The star? The audience? The critics? Are each of these parties trying to prove the others wrong, or to reach out across a divide and make a connection? For each, it’s always a little of both. This movie is a intense, funny, sad, and profoundly weird examination of that tension, and it’s pretty great.

Next: A similar score…

1 comment:

Parker said...

For me, this was a film about rising above one's critics. The mc gets a bad deal in that he's beloved for being Birdman and criticized for it at the same time. Then he tries to do a play and gets criticized again by people who think he'll never rise above his Birdman roll. The mc has this insane Birdman ghost following him around and spewing out the same criticisms--until the end of the movie when the mc does such a sincere portrayal onstage that the critics have to go silent. After that the Birdman ghost has nothing to say; he just sits on the toilet while the mc flies away, rises above it all.

Maybe that overlaps with some of what you're saying--the mc has to be liberated from all these expectations. It makes sense, then, that his telekinesis is so destructive early in the film, but allows him to fly later in the film.

I wonder what you make of the fact the in the end, when he's lying in the hospital bed with black eyes and a broken nose, he looks exactly like Birdman. Is this him taking back his identity as Birdman? Is this him on a power trip, thinking he's Birdman again?