by Brenda W. Clough
I can resist super-hero movies — even Batman and the X-Men often leave me cold, and let us not speak of the horror that was League of Extraordinary Gentlemen! But I can never resist a movie about super-heroes — Hero at Large, or Kick-Ass or Unbreakable. And so I had to see Birdman.
Michael Keaton does a bravura turn as a washed-up action hero actor who is trying to redeem himself artistically by staging a highbrow Broadway play. This is clearly crazy — you might as well set out to make your fortune by writing literary fiction. The movie is mainly the gritty and claustrophobic back-stage pressure-cooker filled with dysfunctional actors. Keaton himself is haunted by his old role, as depicted on a poster that looks exactly like Batman, when Keaton himself wore the Bat-suit.
But there’s another layer of stuff going on. Is he losing his marbles, or is he really a superhuman? Is he going to keep his head together until opening night, or will it all fall apart? Is there anything, anything at all, the artist will not do to get his work out into the light? (The answer is no.) The whole movie is filled with these meaty little nuggets, and the ending is delightfully ambiguous. Well worth seeing, on many levels.
My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out from Book View Café.