Friday, January 23, 2015

Evaluating Birdman

I was captivated by this movie from the opening scenes, the witty dialogue between actors Keaton and Galifianakis and the drum-centric soundtrack (note: the drummer makes a few cameos throughout the film). In fact, I'm going to have to say that this is my most favorite movie soundtrack EVER! The jazz drum soloing seemed to fit the movie perfectly, but more importantly it suited my tastes to a "T."

But it was more than witty banter and cool drums. This movie struck a chord with me that is still resonating in my innermost self. I likened it today to the way the movie "Dead Poets Society" stuck with me at age 21. This was the middle-aged version of that movie.

Obviously, it's resonated with many movie-goers and cinema critics, alike. Which in itself is quite funny, since the movie takes a scathing look at snobby, theater critics. It also seemed to this movie-goer to be an autobiography of Keaton's real-life career. It's not a stretch to see his Birdman persona as the Batman he portrayed, ironically, the same year that "Dead Poets Society" was released (1989).

But it was more than autobiographic. It was emotionally stirring and hit WAY TOO CLOSE to home. A middle-aged man struggles with the path his life has taken. You know, us 40-somethings love to take stock at the supposed midpoint of our lives (as if we're all going to live to the ripe old age of our mid-80's). He's frustrated with his career path and attempts to reinvent himself, pouring himself completely into what he sees as a more worthwhile pursuit. Aren't we all taking stock and trying to gauge what exactly our legacy will be?

More importantly, he reassesses his relationship with his estranged wife/significant other, his daughter and his current female friend/co-star. His daughter, played by a personal fave, Emma Stone (those eyes! those cheekbones! that wicked smile!!!), is a complete mess, thanks in part to her father's absence in her life. You know, girls need their daddy's quality time. He's pretty much cut to the quick by her in one scene. The look on Stone's face is priceless after she realizes what she's done to him with her sharp tongue. It's quintessential Stone. She's a great actress, just by her facial expressions.

And this is where I'll note what a stellar job the casting director did. Not only did the casting director do her absolute best, she chose some of my favorite actors, including Stone (as noted above) and Edward Norton. I have loved his innocent-yet-devious, childish mug ever since I first saw "Primal Fear," in which he played an angelic-demonic altar (alter) boy. Zach Galifianakis has to be my absolute favorite comedic actor of the millennial era. His muted antics are a perfect fit for the film, much like the kick-ass soundtrack. As I said, his reparte' with the lead man in the first 10 minutes had me laughing out loud. He's just a funny guy and his timing is spot-on! I'd love to see the outtake reel of he and Keaton, who is very funny in his own right (I submit "Mr. Mom" as Exhibit A).

So casting, music, storyline...everything was right with this picture! I didn't even mind the quirky ending, which was reminiscent of "Big Fish" (2003, Ewan McGregor). No, I left the cheap theater very pleased and entertained. Introspective, but in a good way. Seeing much of myself in Keaton's exterior character, Riggan Thomas, and "Birdman," the low-tenored voice inside him. The war he raged with himself, the demons he fought, were all too real to me (more than I'd care to admit, but I think I just heard a cat let loose).

I'd recommend this movie to any guy my age. I'll bet any of you 40-somethings who were once moved by Dead Poets will be equally entranced, moved and amused at this movie. I'll probably own it on DVD one day, but who knows. I don't own a copy of Poets. Maybe it was just the right movie at the right time. Still, go and see for yourself. I promise you, if you are a drummer, you will dig the soundtrack!

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