Birdman

I did always assume that with the divisive views I saw on Birdman, the negative reviews were slightly coloured by people reacting to the praise, wanting to prove to people that this movie wasn't as good as they say by tearing it down. In reality, it is that bad, and maybe worse.

On a technical level, the movie is impressive, and the ongoing stress the (not really) one-take direction and jazz drumming brings is purposefully uncomfortable. It does lose its function when the one-shot take is used beyond the stress of a back-stage drama and carries on for the rest of the movie, however. With a cast such as this we get some good acting from the likes of Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and the love of my life Emma Stone. It's all good until people start speaking. There is no subtext here, it's all in the text - characters psychoanalyse each other in an instant, they state aloud the themes of the film and the opinions of the filmmakers with as much subtlety as the superhero movies the film blames for debasing art. It's a gaggle of bitter, cynical and self-obsessed men bemoaning the death of art and cinema at a party, while insisting that the novel they're writing is the real deal. The only way in which this analogy breaks down is that at a party you can leave the fucking room, instead of being subjected to their elitist views for two hours.

There were about four occasions where I thought the film was over, realised I still had some time left, and let out an involuntary groan. I haven't wanted to give up on a movie more than when the scene with the critic reached its apex, but I had to know whether there was anything of worth here. It's all fine to deconstruct cinema, to criticise art within art, if you've got something to say about it. If a film is in love with itself, it should have some thing to focus that attention on. I have such an urge now to re-watch all of Charlie Kaufman's films after this, to see how this kind of film should be made.

The ending I liked, and not just because it meant I could leave. In fact, the general emotional arc of Keaton's character (ignoring the clear meta-textual stuff) is satisfying, and there's plenty of shitty material that's sold by Stone, Keaton and Norton. But these are powers used poorly. It's a shame, because I love seeing films that are nihilistic, a little cynical, maybe even misanthropic, but in the end this has nothing to offer. It throws the baby out with the bathwater, arguing with itself until its worn out; a zero sum.

P.S. This is probably actually a 2-star review, if not for the fact that it felt so physically unpleasant to watch - which is a reaction that may be more personal to me.

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