Why do we watch movies? To we simply want to be entertained? Are we trying to avoid our dull loves? Do we want to feel emotion? Why do we stare at a screen for two hours watching people pretend to be other people? These are just a few of the many questions I asked myself after watching the movie Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).
Twenty years after playing Batman, Michael Keaton plays actor Riggan Thomson, who is twenty years removed from playing the superhero Birdman. Thomson is looking to reignite his career by writing, starring in, and directing a Broadway play. Throuhout the film we see him struggle to feel like he matters, that his work is relevant, and that he is not just a washed up actor and lousy father. Also in the film, we meet Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), a highly respected actor who is a last minute replacement for an injured actor and Thomson’s daughter, Sam (Emma Stone). Shiner is a method actor who struggles to have real feelings in real life. He is real on stage, but not in the real world. Sam works as her father’s assistant, a job she hates, but fresh out of rehab, she has little else going on in her life. Sam is representative of all millenials in that she is deperate to feel like her life has meaning and that she is relelvant.
All three of these characters struggle with identity. Their identities are wrapped up in what others think of them. Riggan Thomson wants to be seen as more than just the Birdman, Shiner wants to be more than just his characters, and Sam wants to find something worthwhile in her life. However, by the end of the film, only Thomson is able to make peace with his identity. He does so by ceasing to care what society and the media think of him, realizing that his family is more important than feeling validated by critics, and embracing the Birdman.
It is no surprise that all three of the actors who played these roles are nominated for Academy Awards for their performances. They brought their characters to life in a hauntingly beautiful way. In a film that is so unique in its style and tone, it is imperative to have actors that can deliver in the unusual way this film was made.
Apart from the performaces and the style of the film, the story makes the viewer question oneself. The battles each character goes through easily makes anyone watch the film question their own sense of self. In short, Birdman is a movie everyone should watch.