Feeling confused by previews of the new film, Birdman? You’re probably not alone. Birdman is a hard movie to explain and wondering whether or not this is some strange new sort of superhero franchise wouldn’t be the most absurd conclusion. However, Birdman is something far more rare and unexpected than just another superhero film and its bizarrely gritty ambition has placed it dead in the center of this year’s award conversation.
Birdman tells the story of an actor named Riggan Thomson who starred in the fictional Birdman movie series and has found his career floundering for the last twenty years since he turned down the fourth sequel. Now, he’s eyeing a career resurgence by writing, directing and starring in a play adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” but viewers quickly discover that Birdman is not entirely in Thomson’s past. He exists in Thomson’s psyche as a persistent voice either stroking his ego or preying on his insecurity—all while making him see some pretty outlandish sights. Birdman is a black comedy with striking visuals and bold creative choices, but it’s also a very relatable depiction of the struggle between confidence and doubt.
That it’s Keaton playing an actor trying to break free from the restraints of an iconic role is quite the coincidence given his career high as Batman over 20 years ago, but Keaton says that wasn’t a factor in choosing the role for him. In fact, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu told Entertainment Weekly that he was relieved Keaton didn’t personalize the film and feel insulted but rather, “he read the other side of it—the side that any human being could identify with.”
Keaton’s performance is being praised as fearless and it’s very likely that he could be nominated for an Oscar for the very first time. Inarritu is expected to receive a nomination as well, especially considering his decision to film the movie in a way that makes it feel like one long tracking shot; a bold and unique choice, just like everything else about this film.