Putting aside the drama surrounding The Oscars, I think it’s worth saying Birdman deserves its spot (just as much as Selma deserved not to be overlooked). The nearly non-fiction with quality with which Riggan Thompson’s story mirrors Michael Keaton’s own life adds a nice dose of reality to the surreal film. Additionally, the continuous stream of film plunges the watcher straight into the lives of all these characters – from Zach Galifianakis as the fraught with frustration producer to Ed Norton’s impotence driven chain smoking. It’s a film about acting, yet you don’t feel like part of an audience – you feel like an invisible stagehand, privy to the explosions of these charismatically damaged people.
It has a few pitfalls – Emma Stone’s angry girl who hates the world routine is a bit contrived, and almost topples over the line into glorying in drug abuse and addiction. When she does speak candidly, however, you are reminded not only of Stone’s sincerity as an actress, but also of the often overlooked wisdom of the young. Her desire to see her dad succeed coupled with her own need for attention is palpable and raw, without falling into the misogynistic trap of labelling her with ‘daddy issues’.
Only when the film came to an end and the lights in the cinema faded in did I realise I’d spent the whole time on the edge of my seat, my fingers clasped around the armrests, knuckles white with pressure. The end didn’t serve to release the tension, either, and the big fat question mark it ends on was almost frustrating. The better ending, for me, was the brand new nose, and the return of Birman to haunt Riggan Thompson to his end. My personal preference on this moment, however, doesn’t detract from my overall love of the film.