Upon leaving the theater after seeing Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s latest, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), I decide that the common practice of denoting any principle performance in a film as “starring” should be rethought, as someone taking up a vast amount of screen time does not necessarily mean that they shine in their role. Perhaps bestowing the prized five-pointed descriptor should be reserved only for those who turn in a rather admirable performance, to be deemed worthy only after the work is complete, not while it’s being marketed. I think, let’s make “stars” a matter of quality, and not about manipulative semantics and commercialism.
I think this because the film delivers an abundance of superior performances; Michael Keaton is in finer than fine form—even if it’s not fit form—as a washed up actor who rose to fame tying himself to a superhero franchise and now, seeking a worthwhile comeback, aligns himself with the high-brow art form, theater; a triumphant Emma Stone, as his recently-returned-from-rehab daughter, delivers a handful of monologues that aspiring actresses, eyes adorned with dark heroine chic makeup, will rehearse in their bathroom mirrors; Edward Norton, the former’s costar and competition, and the latter’s quasi-romantic interest, sparkles in a role seemingly written for him; and we can’t forget that recurring pair of tighty whities, which are tight and white and hilarious (you’ll see).
But almost immediately following my epiphany, I recognize my own myopia. Sure, I still feel like I am onto something, but Iñárritu’s meta, swooping, darkly divine film skewers the current state of celebrity, performance, and arts criticism. Who are you to judge an artist? A piece of artwork? A youTube video? Who are you to assign or reassign labels? Who are you tp tell an artist what’s worthwhile or what their worth is? See, the genius of Birdman is that in and of itself it’s a star—but it doesn’t need you, me, or anyone else to say so … But as a critic, I want to say it anyways.
BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) | R | IN THEATERS NOW