The Bock’s Office: ‘Birdman’ soars proudly toward madness | CraigDailyPress.com

The Bock’s Office: ‘Birdman’ soars proudly toward madness

Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) rushes through Times Square in his underwear in "Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).” The movie is about a former star of superhero movies who seeks to reinvent himself as a serious actor while coping with financial and mental problems.





Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) rushes through Times Square in his underwear in “Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)." The movie is about a former star of superhero movies who seeks to reinvent himself as a serious actor while coping with financial and mental problems.

If you've done all you can to avoid films based on comic books in recent years, you'll probably be out of luck for years to come because they're here to stay. But the love affair that the public has with the idea of the caped crusader has its own dark side, as we can glimpse from a film like "Birdman."

If you go

"Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)," rated R

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 119 minutes

Starring: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton and Emma Stone

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Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

Actor Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) was once the biggest and brightest movie star in the world as the title character of the Birdman blockbuster movie series. But that was then and this is now, and he's come to the bitter truth that people only care who you are for so long if you're not in the spotlight.

In an effort to get his career revived and change his image into that of a serious thespian, Riggan has mounted his own Broadway production as writer, director and lead actor, putting all of his hopes — and money — into the play that could be his last shot at holding on to fame.

The backstage tension that is typical of any show is even worse for him, as he contends with endless headaches from the people around him, the most difficult being his last-minute co-star (Edward Norton), whose longer history in the theater almost certainly will equate to Riggan being outshined.

With all this giving him so much woe, his already-strained psyche can't take much more, but the show must go on!

You'd hardly call Keaton a has-been, but certain elements of his career fit the profile, the most glaring being that of someone who's fallen out of grace for two decades after becoming famous for wearing a costume. And while the former "Batman" star may still get harassed on the street by autograph hounds, odds are he doesn't hear a twisted version of his voice creeping up whenever he gets in a bad place mentally and suffer from the belief that he actually has superpowers.

Or does he?

It's not like anyone takes the time to notice, whether it's his financial backer and supposed best friend (Zach Galifianakis) or his angry, nihilistic personal assistant, who also happens to be his daughter, Emma Stone a great addition as a miserable recovering addict who hates everyone.

Andrea Riseborough plays well as Riggan's girlfriend and castmate, as does Naomi Watts as a neurotic actress doing all she can not to blow her shot at the Great White Way, but only Norton has the same amount of sway as Keaton as his foil, a smug method actor who deigns to stoop to such lows when his process has made him the darling of every theater critic.

Sounds like a good archnemesis to me.

There's a touch of the fantastic in this look at one man slowly losing his mind as Riggan's avian alter ego taunts him repeatedly at every dark moment, reminding him of all his failures and the impossibility of becoming anything ever again. What remains a mystery is if our hero is earnestly trying to be a legitimate artist or if he'll settle for another 15 minutes of easy glory.

Maybe he wants to be considered prolific, but his pleasure at a video of his accidental jaunt through Times Square in his tighty-whities going viral is just a little too great.

Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu delves into the fleeting nature of celebrity and asks what truly matters in this life, an answer sure to vary from everyone in this cast, but it's all the other touches that leave you in a tizzy and unsure of what's real, from Emmanuel Lubezki's camerawork that captures the fast-paced theater world with multiple long takes or Antonio Sánchez's volatile yet jazzy music that highlights Riggan's inner torment, taking a break with some classical pieces when he drifts into la-la-land.

When you dream, you gotta dream big …

Whether you call it "Birdman" or the alternate title, "The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance," you can't escape the morbidly funny, sometimes painful emotional truths this story has to show, as well as the possibility of a career comeback by Keaton.

However many personalities you may have, it's bound to please one of them.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go

“Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” rated R

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 119 minutes

Starring: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton and Emma Stone

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.