Movie review: Birdman

Cert: 15A

Padraic McKiernan

F.Scott Fitzgerald famously stated that there were no "second acts in American life." In director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's compelling, darkly comic drama Birdman, we encounter a character frantically trying to disprove that theory. If recent trips to your local multiplex made you wish you'd laced your popcorn with Prozac (yes, I'm looking at you Mrs Brown) then this sophisticated satire just might be the movie for you.

Whisper it softly but we just might be in the company of a bona fide American classic.

In a role that has deafening echoes of art imitating life, former Batman Michael Keaton, takes the central role of Riggan Thomson, the star of Birdman, a once globally successfully superhero franchise. Thomson walked away from the option of doing a fourth instalment prompting a personal and professional wilderness decade he is now hoping to end by staging an adaptation of a Raymond Carver short-story on Broadway. Most of the action takes place in the chaotic confines of the theatre complex and it's fair to say that all is not well either personally or professionally with Riggan.

There's the self-inflicted slings and arrows of outrageous egotism for starters. Riggan's lust for fame and artistic credibility has left a trail of destruction including a flirtation with bankruptcy, a broken marriage and a fractious relationship with Sam (Emma Stone), his young daughter and personal assistant who has already had a stint in rehab. Then there are his fraught interactions with the cast as they struggle with rehearsals, previews and the looming demands of opening night. If that wasn't enough to be going on with, Riggan is fighting a losing battle in his head with the voice of Birdman who lacerates him at every turn for trying to escape the shadow cast over his career by playing the role of Batman, sorry, Birdman. And it's probably best not to go there with the supercilious theatre critic who considers Riggan a Hollywood clown in a latex body suit.

Stunning visuals, dazzling dialogue and a superb cast that includes Edward Norton and Naomi Watts combine to create a finished product that is a masterful, thought-provoking triumph. Like all great art, it's a journey into the heart of psychological darkness that sheds a luminous light.

Released Jan 2nd