Critics are raving about Michael Keaton (remember him?) in Birdman. Keaton plays a washed-up actor who used to portray a superhero, which is great of course–but tricks like this run the risk of being too clever. The new movie avoids the pitfalls. It’s an accomplishment managed by as good an ensemble cast as we’ve seen in a while: Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton and Emma Stone surround Keaton–their latent star power making Keaton’s position overt even when it’s in the background.
But it’s the scenes where Keaton acts with his own thoughts that define the movie. Keaton hasn’t had such compelling voices inside his head–at least that the audience has been privy too–since he was the idea man decades ago in Night Shift, where he was nearly tortured by hilarious creative urges. (“Feed the tuna fish mayonnaise.”) If it wasn’t shot so beautifully, you might think Birdman was an enormously sophisticated school project by a movie prodigy–because of its patience, its reliance on dialogue, its, well, actorliness. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu has made a beautiful film, sure to last, built on timeless themes of identity and the difficult questions about what’s important (and real) in the world. Even the poster is great.