Michael Keaton Takes Flight in Birdman
Actor called 'tour de force' in comeback role
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 17, 2014 9:40 AM CDT
In this image released by Fox Searchlight Pictures, Michael Keaton portrays Riggan Thomson in a scene from "Birdman."   (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight, Atsushi Nishijima)

(Newser) – Chatter about a Michael Keaton comeback was inevitable when early press started trickling out about Birdman, but he's surpassed expectations and "soars" in the role (as more than one media outlet describes his performance). The surreal movie by Alejandro González Iñárritu, which documents washed-up actor Riggan Thomson trying to launch his own revival on Broadway, also stars Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, and Edward Norton. Some highlights from critics:

  • Peter Travers gives the movie four stars at Rolling Stone, writing that he's "jazzed by every tasty, daring, devastating, howlingly funny, how'd-they-do-that minute" of the film. He calls director Iñárritu a "risk-taking Mexican visionary," informs us that cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is a "camera genius," and raves about the actors, especially Keaton, who "delivers the best performance of his career" in a "potent, pinballing tour de force." As for the haters Travers predicts this "cinematic whirlwind" will provoke, he has some advice: "They can all go piss off."

  • The meta nature of the film isn't lost on AA Dowd over at the AV Club, who writes about "the casting coup of the year: aging former movie star who once played a winged superhero returns as an aging former movie star who once played a winged superhero." As Keaton stomps around on screen, "cursed/blessed with terrible facial hair, and always walking or yelling or arguing with himself," he "hasn't seemed this alive in years. Maybe ever."
  • At USA Today, Claudia Puig points out all the other facets of life that the movie explores through one man's midlife crisis, writing, "Birdman delivers an incisive commentary on celebrity culture, ambition, social media, and fractured families." It doesn't sound like it's for the weak of heart, though: She adds that the movie "plunges the audience into a state of riveted, heightened apprehension, then catapults viewers to bizarre heights. It can be exhausting but supremely exhilarating."
  • Meanwhile, Peter Rainer isn't as impressed with the film, taking the entire plot to task in his Christian Science Monitor review and stating that Birdman "never makes the case that Riggan had a talent worth redeeming. … Why, then, should we care about the ambitions of a mediocre actor with delusions of artistic grandeur?" He adds that Keaton's "tightly controlled, indrawn performance has its fair share of blahness" and calls the film "tone-deaf" when it comes to its knowledge of both Broadway and Hollywood.