As life goes by, the accumulation of artistic exposure inevitably means that there are fewer and fewer surprises to be found in works of fiction, especially if you've devoted most of your life to the study of understanding how the concept of story works. So when I encounter a story that feels as original as Birdman, I feel compelled to share my love and sing the praises.
The film deals with the struggle of one man to break free from the shadow of past success and popularity in an attempt to gain respect for his artistic talent. The way it presents the turbulent path of an artistic career, and the conflicts of ego that tend to go along with it, are incredibly honest, at least from my personal experiences. As an artist, you are haunted by the work you did in the past, and forever in doubt about the quality of what you may be doing in the present. Michael Keaton is not only the perfect actor for this role because of the meta connotations with his history of being the first Batman, but also because over the years people forgot that he's a great actor.
Edward Norton represents another difficult aspect of being an artist. He's the artist who excels in his art, but can't handle the everyday mundane practices of real life. The artist who is more content to live within his art at the expense of any other relationships is another pitfall that lurks on the artistic journey. The film captures all of this in a script that is humorous at times and heartbreaking at others. The camera weaves through the narrow backstage hallways as if traveling through tunnels of the mind, connecting one thought and emotion to another, sometimes allowing them to crash in violent collision. There is a darkness hovering through those halls, in fact the world is only bright and colorful when the story is transported into the imaginary worlds of its characters. That is he life of the artist.
There are some films that come to mind for comparison; Black Swan, Inland Empire, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and Pan's Labyrinth to name a few. It's like those movies, but completely unlike them as well, as they are also unlike each other or any others. Like those movies this one is unique and it's nice to see uniqueness being recognized in an age when movies that don't fall into one of the predetermined labels that coincide with a ready-made marketing campaign tend get lost. Fly high, Birdman...fly high.