MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3

Content: -4

Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts. Comedy drama.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory. Hearing his superhero alter ego’s voice in his head and thinking he really does have super powers, he struggles to bring reality to the production amid the turmoil of his own mind, and that of his costars.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, the camera moves about much like an observant “runner” who passes through each step of the production to see if assistance is needed. While not overly intrusive, it serves as a tour guide, giving the impression that the film is all one scene. And some of this camera movement is quite impressive as it seems to fly through the air and through walls. Several scenes have been so well constructed and acted that the film is generating deserved Oscar buzz. And the film may have the most effective musical score since The Man With the Golden Arm.

Birdman is an eye-opener concerning a realization that many of our court jesters are deeply wounded psychologically. Once a friend in the business told me he never knew an actor who wasn’t in therapy or didn't need to be. They bolster their egos and greedily indulge in every vice as if they can avoid destructive intakes better than we mortal folk. Perhaps the stars of Birdman have mastered their way around these deadly pitfalls to life and art, but their characters sure haven’t. It is a lesson we can all learn: pride goeth before the fall.

Alas, the picture is a self-indulgent exercise that has the filmmaker dulling his gleaming artistry with the usual dingy content found in most movies from this era. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu takes a satirical jab at the makers of superhero movies and presents a revelation that some of our finest actors are making millions by doing countless comic book adventures rather than using their artistic integrity to bring substance back to the silver screen. (Do you really think Robert Downey Jr. wants to wear that plastic iron suit in another sequel?) But Iñárritu offers nothing new when it comes to expressing frustration or anger either with his visuals or his language. We've seen and heard the same brutish verbal abuses in most “Award” contenders of the past twenty years. (Here, nearly 100 uses of the f-word are used to express anger frustration or most any other emotion.)

At the end of the film, I felt depressed despite its one brief note of optimism. Again, Hollywood forgets that subtlety can go further than excess when defining a character or a statement.

DVD Alternative: All About Eve. Bette Davis at her best as a sophisticated Broadway actress at odds with her scheming protégé. Winner of six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Droll dialogue and sharp performances make this a 4-star picture. It proves that to Hollywood, a new idea is an old idea with expletives.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Fox Searchlight Pictures

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Though it takes a shot at the type of movies Hollywood does frequently, the coarse and profane content is exactly the same.

Obscene Language: Nearly 100 uses of the f-word and another 25 other obscenities.

Profanity: Six profane uses of God’s name and at least two misuses of Christ’s.

Violence: A fight erupts between the two leads; on stage the lead points a gun at his co-star; then the character attempts suicide; a fantasy sequence has the superhero Birdman going up against attacking forces in the city, with bombs going off and several destructive events.

Sex: Two sexual situations and several crude sexual references; two women kiss passionately in one scene.

Nudity: Backside male nudity.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Drinking, smoking and pot use.

Other: None

Running Time: 119 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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