Mexican film auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a festival of emotional and physical kinetics that will exhaust even as it delights. Michael Keaton stars as Riggan Thomson, an actor whose celebrity was earned as a motion picture superhero called Birdman. The intervening years have not been kind to Riggan (thickening waist, thinning hair), and he hopes to turn himself around by directing and starring in a play he's adapted from a Raymond Carver short story. His venture is complicated by his slow descent into madness, his mercurial co-star Mike (Edward Norton) and the show's two leading ladies, his girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough) and Mike's lover (Emily Watson). Shot almost exclusively in the interior of the St. James Theatre on Broadway, the movie has the feel of an unbroken reel as it follows the players down the narrow corridors to the dressing rooms, into the wings, onto the stage, up on the roof for battles royal. Iñárritu borrows heavily from the magical realism literary tradition to depict Riggan's unraveling but telekinetic mind. Keaton is marvelous as are all of the supporting actors, especially Zack Galifianakis as Jake, the show's frazzled producer, Amy Ryan as Riggan's ex-wife, and Emma Stone as his insouciant daughter. The film will likely resonate more with theater folks but Keaton's identify crisis will surely connect with anyone who is haunted by the spectres of their youth.


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