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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) movie review: winged infamy

Birdman green light

It’s all a bit satirical. Or maybe not. Look, over there, Shakespeare in a superhero cape!
I’m “biast” (pro): like the director, love the cast

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It was one thing when Birdman was the scrappy little indie that could. (Never mind that it was an indie with a budget of $22 million and an A-list cast.) Then it was just a snooty pretentious film with an arty gimmick that hardly anyone had seen. But now it has been crowned as the very best movie of 2014 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. The people who are the most Hollywood that people can be have officially spoken. And what they have said is, “We hate superhero movies. We hate the fans who make superhero movies huge. But we love your money, so thanks for that.” Which is basically what Birdman — I think we can all agree that its subtitle with the misplaced parens really is pretentious and unnecessary — says.

I like Birdman. I sympathize with creative people who are frustrated with getting pigeonholed, as is Michael Keaton’s Riggan Thomson, erstwhile star of the late 80s/early 90s Birdman comic-book movie franchise, and hence a barely disguised version of Keaton himself, probably. (Or maybe not. Keaton [Need for Speed, RoboCop] seems to embrace his Batman legacy. Maybe Riggan is an alterna-Keaton who’s less happy and less well-adjusted.) But it’s tough to feel too sympathetic with people who moan about being too rich and too famous for what they perceive are the wrong reasons; being beloved of millions of people around the world for playing a noble and valiant character ain’t exactly serial-killer or even sad-sex-tape notoriety or anything. Ah, but the money has run out for Riggan — we don’t know why, except that that does tend to happen — and now he is desperate to be seen as something more than Birdman; he is desperate for a reimagining of his fame; in short, comeback. Which he is attempting to manufacture by adapting a Raymond Carver story for the Broadway stage, directing it himself, and starring in it to boot. (Oh, and he has pledged money to this. Even though he’s broke. Somehow, rich people are never broke even when they’re broke.) Despite, we are driven to presume, having no experience on the stage whatsoever. Hell, even the gravelly voice of Birdman himself, emanating from somewhere within his alcohol-addled brain, is telling him to give it up and embrace cape-ed (or, in this case, wing-ed) infamy.

It’s all a bit satirical, sending up the disaffected global movie star putting on artistic airs. (A theater critic — aka “that old bat from The New York Times,” played by the spectacular Lindsay Duncan [Le Week-end, About Time], berates Riggan for his unearned ambitiousness. The first time I saw this film, I thought it was an unfair attack on criticism. The second time, she seemed like the hero of the piece.) Or maybe it’s a matter of truth being said in jest. The gimmick director and screenwriter Alejandro González Iñárritu employs to tell the story of Riggan and his cast and crew — mostly also friends, though some are just barely tolerated — preparing for their first preview and and then opening night is one far more theatrical than cinematic, though it requires cinematic trickery to pull it off: the film is made of a series of very, very long uncut sequences in which the few edits are disguised, so that the entire film plays as if it is a single uncut two-hour shot. But what makes it theatrical is that what we witness is not happening in real time, as it would have to be if the camera were actually tracking events as they happen. Instead, for instance, the camera might do a 360-degree pan around the room, and it’s hours later when it reaches its starting point again. Or there might be someone walking down a corridor with a camera at their back, and then he passes through a door, and it’s the next day on the other side of the door. That can happen on stage — in fact, it almost has to; the stage doesn’t have a lot of options for indicating a passing of time — but film never does that. So for a film to go to such extremes — this cannot have been easy to shoot — is it suggesting that maybe stagey stuff is better than filmic stuff? (Or maybe not: The comic-book action sequence that breaks out on the streets of Times Square in the middle of one of Riggan’s little nervous breakdowns is unironically awesome… although maybe its awesomeness makes it ironic!) I dunno… It didn’t seem as cynical before its Oscar win. (I first saw Birdman when it was the Surprise Film at London Film Festival in October, before it had been released anywhere. And I watched it again on an awards screener after its Oscar win. So I’ve come at it from both ends of its extremes.)

Sneaky Iñárritu. He knew people like me — and even more particularly, the legions of fanboy sites that thrive on click-baiting posts speculating on who might be cast in that comic-book movie that will be Studio X’s tentpole three summers from now — would be saying all sorts of things, some complimentary and probably some not, about his adventurous little movie, and that maybe those things would overshadow the movie itself. (This is no longer possible, since the Oscar win.) Because right there, taped to the mirror in Riggan’s dressing room in the theater, is a laser-printed quote that reads “A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.” It appears to be an entirely invented bit of wisdom, but still: This is a movie about which many Things have been said (such as that Oscar stamp of approval from AMPAS) but also about which many things remain to be said. This is a movie we will be talking about for many years… certainly long past the inevitable collapse of superhero movies. And it’s a movie that deserves to be seen so you can debate what it means (if you’re the sort of person who is into that sort of fun). So maybe that does make it the Best Movie of the Year… though Oscar has not always been good about accurately forecasting the movies that will endure.

I like Birdman, but I have not found it the transcendent experience that some others have found it to be. It did make me wonder if perhaps Edward Norton’s (The Bourne Legacy, The Dictator) reputation as a big ol’ pain-in-the-ass pompous jerk perhaps isn’t entirely deserved, because here he plays an actor (a last-minute replacement in Riggan’s play) who is a big ol’ pain-in-the-ass pompous jerk, and no one who has that kind of sense of humor about himself can be all bad. It did make me marvel at how Zach Galifianakis (Muppets Most Wanted, The Hangover Part III), as Riggan’s best friend and professional one-man support team, can actually act and can actually be handsome onscreen when he wants to be. It did make me want to imagine that it was actually Miles Teller-in-Whiplash playing drums on the very drummy soundtrack. It did make me despair that the awesomeness that is both Naomi Watts (Diana, Movie 43) and Andrea Riseborough (Oblivion, Shadow Dancer), as actors in Riggan’s play, was mostly wasted here — why couldn’t the movie have been about them? — and then console myself with the fact that at least Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), as Riggan’s daughter and personal assistant, at least gets to dish out a little bit of the smackdown he deserves.

There’s a bit here where Riggan is wandering the streets of Times Square and passes by a crazy person shouting out a soliloquy fromMacbeth. Which at least lets us dismiss Birdman, if we want to, as a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.

first viewed during the 58th BFI London Film Festival


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Birdman for its representation of girls and women.


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Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
US/Can release: Oct 17 2014
UK/Ire release: Dec 26 2014

MPAA: rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex references)

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Damian Barajas

    I liked this movie, it helped that when I saw it about a month ago, I knew nothing going into it. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it as much if I watched it as the best movie of 2014.
    What I can’t help is to read the story as one with a tragic tone that is prevalent across Mexican cinema, spoiler alert:
    *************************************************************

    The ending was only possible because his family and friends, as well as the hospital were negligent in leaving a suicidal patient alone. He’s clearly being driven to suicide for the sake of the story and not because he wants to die, not at least in any way I can see. Its just handwaived as madness.
    But I the viewer get nothing out of his death but a cruel derailment of what he was able to build.
    I mean, he’s clearly in over his head for most of the movie and is only able to transcend his own incompetence by going insane so he has to die?

    …End spoiler

    **********************************
    Yes, I liked the movie, but If you ask me what it was about, I’m hard pressed to come up with an answer.

  • Hank Graham

    I thought Mark Harris had it right. This is a movie about a man who wants to make something like “Boyhood.”

    In the end, it felt gimmicky and trite to me, despite respecting what it was trying for, and the skill that was brought to it by all concerned.

  • amanohyo

    I watched this movie on a whim several months ago to get the Babadook heebie jeebies out of my system and went in with no expectations. It’s certainly a dramatic roller coaster ride of a movie, and not in a good way. I felt as if I was playing a dull rail shooter, being led by the nose through a series of contrived confrontations.

    As MA wrote, it’s a “bit” satirical — I really wish it would have gone for the full bite. It feels as if Iñárritu wants to have it both ways — for the audience to laugh at Riggan for taking his narcissistic career ambitions so seriously, but also to see those ambitions as a kind of profound representation of the combined dreams of humanity.

    Sadly, the film is too timid to dip more than a toe into either perspective — the satire is dulled and diluted until it feels like a gentle, inside joke for people in the entertainment industry, and the moments of “genuine” emotion come off as petty and manufactured, especially the telegraphed interaction of Emma Stone’s and Ed Norton’s characters.

    The fact that Iñárritu has sneakily anticipated this criticism, as demonstrated in the dressing room note MA pointed out and the bar scene with the critic, does not absolve him of making a poor (albeit technically impressive) movie. Taking the time to throw a wink to the audience to acknowledge flaws instead of just fixing them in the first place is childish and unproductive.

    The funniest thing is that Iñárritu seems unaware that his movie is just as pandering and small-minded as the overblown, big-budget comic book movies Riggan seems to want to rise above. This is a technically impressive movie about making movies/plays in which actors act about acting with nothing novel or interesting to say. Every important event centers around a man, there’s a gratuitous lipstick lesbian scene, and every dramatic confrontation is predictable and overblown. He’s made the 40-something arthouse, moviegoer equivalent of Spiderman 3 or The Last Airbender. It wants to be cool and popular so bad, but the effort, money, and emphasis are all in the wrong places.

    Unlike MA, I doubt this is a movie that we’ll be talking about for many years, unless it’s to briefly note the visual gimmick in passing. There’s not enough meaning to debate. Synecdoche, New York, a film that deals with many of the same themes and was also a superficially clever, vacuous, inside-baseball, circle-jerk, came and went like the wind. I suspect Birdman will as well for similar reasons.

  • James

    Just a quick nitpick, the short story being adapted is by Raymond Carver, not Raymond Chandler.

  • SPOILER

    I’m not sure if anyone else realized he was suicidal. Only we, in the audience, might be aware of that.

  • I think my biggest issue with this film is that its targets — pretentious actors; comic book movies — are too easy and obvious.

  • Oops, you’re right. Brain fart on my part! I’ve fixed it now. Thanks for pointing this out.

  • Danielm80

    I hated the movie for exactly that reason, and I was much less forgiving about the way the critic was portrayed. She’s every ridiculous preconception that people have about critics. She’s mean-spirited and humorless, and she goes into the play planning to rip it to shreds because it doesn’t fit into her narrow-minded idea about what a play should be like. I’m not sure her actions at the end make her any less cartoonish.

    The Oscars suggest that I’m in the minority here.

  • amanohyo

    I have no problem with the targets themselves, it’s the approach to those targets that bugs me. Not only is the critic a flat stereotypical representation, every other character is too.

    This is what makes the plot points and interactions in the movie so predictable. Iñárritu is too timid to push into full on caricature territory which could lead to some genuinely ridiculous and/or edgy moments of spontaneous silliness, but he’s also too lazy to push in the other direction and make his characters truly human with interesting quirks, desires, and inconsistencies.

    I think he believes that the actors are satirically portraying caricatures of their real life personas, but that’s not the case. These characters are not exaggerated enough to rise to the level of caricature — they’re shorthand, twitterized versions of humans. Keaton does the best job of breathing a little life into his lines, but he has the most to work with. Even the scene in which Riggan gets trapped outside the theater felt stale and generic.

    It’s true that the targets the film chooses are worn and battered, but the script could have made it work if it had a new perspective on pretentious method actors, self-important critics, and overblown comic book blockbusters. Unfortunately every line spoken by the characters is exactly the type of line those types of characters are expected to say. Every character is stock, and the stock expired long long ago.

    It’s akin to someone making a movie about a pirate and a ninja in which the pirate stands on a ship saying “arrrrgh” for 90 minutes and then the ninja drops down from the mast and stabs the pirate for the finale. Anything genuine, messy, prickly and well… human has been sandblasted out of the script — even lines that are intended to be honest and moving sound like they were ripped out of an ancient episode of The Bold and the Beautiful.

    I watch movies hoping to be surprised, to feel and/or learn something. Birdman failed to surprise me, it failed to make me care about what was happening, it failed even to teach me something new or true about the lives and thoughts of actors. MA’s final sentence nailed it. This is worse than a bad movie, it’s a bland one.

  • Danielm80

    Birdman is a little like The Breakfast Club: “I’m a stereotype, but I’m anguished about being a stereotype.” The difference is: The Breakfast Club was genuinely funny, and the characters were actually compelling.

  • RogerBW

    I’m getting a certain feeling of “the only important thing in life is ACTING, being a decent human being is way down the list”.

  • Danielm80

    It’s about actors who used to have that attitude and are trying, much too late, to become decent human beings. It’s all very “Cat’s in the Cradle,” to quote Chandler Bing. The film assumes that all Hollywood actors are vain and shallow and obsessed with their careers.

  • cleric20

    Great review! For me Birdman was a worth ‘Best Film’ winner!

  • John

    Oscar well deserved! Best film of the year and Michael Keaton should have won the Oscar!

  • walking man

    Interesting review–been looking forward to reading your thoughts, MaryAnn. Like Damien, I went in without expectations the first time, and saw it twice as well, and wasn’t sure what rating to give it. I eventually decided on 5/5, based in large part on how I felt when I emerged from the cinema, but I’ll be interested to see how it holds up in the years to come. I’m reminded of American Beauty, which was a revelation at the time but a film I’ve never rewatched because I now worry I’d decide it’s complete rubbish.

    SPOILER

    ****************************************************************************

    Regarding the end, I didn’t think it’s suicide at all. I agree Riggan was suicidal, but I think it’s fairly clear that in the final moment, for the first time, he’s actually flying. I read the film as a parable about the creative process, with the main characters representing different aspects of the psyche. So the critic, for example, isn’t supposed to be a real critic, but represents the scathing inner critic.

    I agree about the parens. And that it’s weak satire. And that rich and famous people are having a whinge. And the criticism of superhero films is unfair. But I think–though am not certain!–that if you accept the creative process reading, and the ending as positive, most of that gets subsumed into choice of setting and a depiction of the insecurities of the creative ego. I just recognise so many of my own creative anxieties in it. I agree that the comic book sequence is unironically awesome, and to me that supports the reading that superhero films are just a convenient target for the protagonist’s own insecurities. Is Iñárritu really attacking the artistic integrity of named actors?

    Something I paid more attention to the second time was all the moments where Riggan’s power is shown, and we’re given contradictory evidence. For example, if you watch his eyes, Riggan clearly plans the stage light falling on the actor’s head, which has real-world consequences, whereas it’s confirmed in several ways that the giant bird sequence is all imaginary–for instance, the cabbie running after Riggan to get his fare after he comes back to earth. So I think he has the power (i.e. creativity), but doesn’t fully believe in it. I read the ending as more or less the same as the Matrix–like Neo, he’s overcome his own doubts and insecurities (goodbye Birdman alter-ego) and taken the imaginative leap. What better way to represent that than to break with the conventions that the film has set up (that this is a film about a mentally unstable actor) and embrace–or at least suggest–the superhero?

    ****************************************************************************

    One thing in the review I disagree with is that the illusion of no cuts is a gimmick, if that’s meant in a derogatory sense. I think the technique works both to convey the theatrical context (as you note) and as a way to bring us closer to Riggan. Would the film work as well without it? I don’t think so.

    As a side-note, interesting (and agreed!) that the film doesn’t lose points in Where Are the Woman because the protagonist could’ve been a woman without significantly impacting the film. It’s not an argument I’ll make, but I could imagine one being made for the film as a feminist critique of the male ego, with the Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough characters as evidence and the daughter and ex-wife as proof that this critique comes from a place of love.

  • American Beauty, which was a revelation at the time but a film I’ve never rewatched because I now worry I’d decide it’s complete rubbish.

    Ha! I feel the same way, and have not revisted AB since it was released.

    the illusion of no cuts is a gimmick, if that’s meant in a derogatory sense.

    I didn’t mean it in a derogatory way, but it *is* a gimmick. I don’t know that it adds anything to the story. But it *is* fun and different.

  • Damian Barajas

    Fair enough, I thought it was clear to at least his best friend, Jake, if not to all.

  • Sam

    Could it be that the biasing aspects of the feminist perspective blinds the feminist, who is looking for men’s biases against women in this movie, from considering the real possibility that the whole movie is totally told from a woman’s viewpoint?

    How else can one explain the movie’s ending with the daughter delusionally seeing her father flying through the air as Birdman? Was in fact the whole movie our female rehab’s view of what was going on around her? Was the hospital room at the movie’s end, her own in a mental ward?

  • Interesting idea! I think most women, when thinking about their own lives, would put a man smack in the center of their own stories. What else are women for, anyway, but to orbit men?

    By gum, I think you’re on to something here. Perhaps many of those other movies with male protagonists are actually about women, too.

  • Sam

    Hmmm, like the movie, its hard to tell whether your comment is serious or a put-down, satirical poke at me or a combination of both.

    None of the dozens of reviews I just read, even attempt to deal with the movie’s ending. Remarkably, the ending is collectively ignored as an inconvenient plot twist that, if addressed, undermines the ‘male’ view of what has been seen as taking place by the reviewers, up until these final few seconds.

    Not willing to give up the prejudice of this male centric viewpoint, the reviewers themselves enter into the surreal realm, by mixing their own fantasy projections onto what is shown.

    This male centric prejudice ONLY works for the reviewers, if they selectively leave out the whole female revelatory ending of the movie.

    That is, the daughter in rehab has deep delusional issues with her distant but over-whelming father, and this whole movie is what is going on in her head.

  • Remarkably, the ending is collectively ignored as an inconvenient plot twist that, if addressed, undermines the ‘male’ view of what has been seen as taking place by the reviewers, up until these final few seconds.

    Not willing to give up the prejudice of this male centric viewpoint, the reviewers themselves enter into the surreal realm, by mixing their own fantasy projections onto what is shown.

    Are you suggesting that I have a “male view” of this movie? Cuz I don’t.

    I cannot speak for any other critic, but I can assure you that I, as a woman and a feminist who just today was called an “angry power beaver” certainly did not see any particular female perspective in this film. And I see nothing to suggest that it is all secretly being observed from the daughter’s perspective. She isn’t even present for much of the action, so this is not supportable by what we see onscreen.

    As for the ending, there are several ways it can be interpreted, but all of them lean toward everything being her father’s delusion or a fantasy that supports his POV, not hers.

    But okay: If this movie is all happening in her head, run with that. What does it all mean? What does it say about her? How does the movie as a whole support this interpretation?

  • Todd

    While I appreciate the above-and-beyond efforts that went into producing Birdman, I must say that I was somehow underwhelmed, disappointed, and even frustrated by the final product.

    Not having full access to the producers’ minds, and being of only limited intelligence, my reflections may be off base. Moreover, in fairness, perhaps so dense a film deserves a SECOND viewing before one weighs in? These realities not withstanding, I can only offer the results of my highly-fallible grappling with this effort.

    I grew weary of the “sound and fury” of many of the interactions. Only a few scenes really crackled with true believability and tension. Although the character of the reviewer in the pub may have been written rather anachronistically and one-dimensionally, I found THAT confrontation to be very powerful (and, truly tragic, as Riggan leaves behind his handwritten inspiration on the bar counter, like just so much refuse). Likewise, when Riggan and Mike first rehearse utilizing Mike’s free-wheeling approach to the “I did not know the man” dialog, the scene’s pace and overlap and energy were captivating. Nonetheless, I became worn down by the frequency and loudness of so many of the conflicts. Reliance upon sheer volume, as a dramatic tool, begins to pay fewer dividends over time.

    The callousness with which the film seems to deal with such soul-wrenching topics as miscarriage, and suicide, is unsettling.

    Michael Keaton (whom I’ve long felt could play anything effectively–witness Pacific Heights; Multiplicity; Beetlejuice; Jackie Brown) does a nice job with the material he is provided. Perhaps most mercurially effective is Keaton’s (supposed) revelation, to Norton, of the horrors perpetrated upon him and his sister, by their alcoholic father. Wow, what a seamless portrayal. Likewise, I found Zach Galifianakis’ work, and appearance, to be a revelation. I think that most of the acting was fine. (Perhaps the weakest, and most unappealing results, come from Emma Stone?)

    Pivotally, there are too many inconsistencies to allow someone to highly recommend this film.

    +++++++

    SPOILER ALERT:

    Most havoc-wreaking of the illogicalities is the aftermath of the shooting. For example: If someone “shot their nose off”, how is it that the proboscis not only remains, but is somehow larger than before?!? And if Riggan had been serious about his attempt on his own life, how could he miss his head so badly? Performance anxiety? Unlikely.

    +++++++

    Lastly, if I may, one small quibble. I found that the captioning for the movie was often and distractingly in error. It appears that the lazy captioning was based upon the initial script, not upon the (improvised) final rendering.

    Birdman is a thought-provoking, often-innovative, off-putting, sporadically-moving film. I feel here that I am going against the grain, but I am not inclined to give it more than 7.5 out of 10.

  • Sam

    OK, let’s begin.

    When the Daughter (D) enters the hospital room in the last scene, the assumed rules of engagement, for the 99% of the hitherto shown movie, begin to come undone.

    Seeing an empty room, D searches for her Father (F). Finally she looks out the window and down to the street, but does not see F there. Then she looks upward and smiles in relief. D sees F ‘there, flying around doing his Birdman thing.’ Movie ends.

    If F is not in the room, if F is not smashed on the street below, and if F cannot really fly in the sky, then the absence NOW of F altogether, means he was not there shortly BEFORE. But D thought he was there shortly before and so did we, as we saw him there or did we.

    Logically, by the new unfolding rules of shifting POV, what we saw were D’s fantasy’s of F being in the room. For F to NOT be there now, is an ahh haa moment for us. OMG, he was never there, it was only her fevered imagination, we were seeing and this has just been revealed to us as the credits role. Surprise! We fooled you the audience into thinking you were seeing one thing, when you were actually seeing another thing.

    Note how other inconsistencies in what we’ve seen before now fall into logical place. How could F have put a 45 to his head and not blown it off his shoulders, as he did in the pig blood try-outs? How did his blown off nose, sudden appear whole and unbloodied, when unwrapped in the hospital?

    Why? How? Because D’s love-hate relationship with her F, lead her to fantasize him killing himself, but she could not guiltlessly ‘carry-out’ or direct the suicide, so D cleans up her fantasy narrative, which we are watching, as she goes along.

    If the nose job, as first misleadingly presented was from F’s POV, then F could not have miraculously have grown a new one, which he seemingly did. But in her disturbed fantasy POV, Pinocchio tricks are quite reasonable and acceptable.

    What we are now forced to do, as logic demanding viewers, is ‘reinvent’ the D’s role and consequently re-interpret the whole darn movie.

    For myself, I assume F is truly schizophrenic along the many fractured personality lines we saw heretofore. I assume D was indeed an assistant to F and that F and others were as stressed out as presented.

    I see D as a damaged soul from being brought up in a high-energy dysfunctional famous family, where her mother was a loving enabler to both F and D’s mental illness, as she tried to keep it all altogether and herself needed.

    Furthermore, D has become a defenseless and self destructive raw nerve, who cannot separate herself from all the stresses around her in the theater and so the movie is represented so emotionally from her damaged POV.

    New subject:

    As for Feminist being unknowing carriers of the .dreaded Male POV, yes, it is possible, unfortunately, even likely. Too often, I fear.

    That which we react to, too often shapes how we react, in its own image. But this is more than I am prepared to go into and I mean no personal disparagement by the little I venture to say already.

    If I did not think respectfully of you, I would not have wasted my time writing what I have written above.

  • Sam

    OK, let’s begin.

    When the Daughter (D) enters the hospital
    room in the last scene, the assumed rules of engagement for the 99% of
    the hitherto shown movie begin to come undone.

    Seeing an empty
    room, D searches for her Father (F). Finally she looks out the window
    and down to the street, but does not see F there. Then she looks upward
    and smiles in relief. D sees F ‘there, flying around doing his Birdman
    thing.’ Movie ends.

    If F is not in the room, if F is not smashed
    on the street below, and if F cannot really fly in the sky, then the
    absence NOW of F altogether, means he was not there shortly BEFORE. But D
    thought he was there shortly before and so did we, as we saw him there
    or did we. Logically, by the new unfolding rules of shifting POV, what
    we saw were D’s fantasy’s of F being in the room. For F to NOT be there
    now, is an ahh haa moment for us. OMG, he was never there, it was only
    her fevered imagination, we were seeing and this has just been revealed
    to us as the credits role. Surprise! We fooled you the whole audience
    into thinking you were seeing one thing, when you were actually seeing
    another thing.

    Note how other inconsistencies in
    what we’ve seen before now fall into logical place. How could F have
    put a 45 to his head and not blown it off his shoulders, as he did in
    the pig blood try-outs? How did his blown off nose, sudden appear whole
    and unbloodied, when unwrapped in the hospital?

    Why?
    How? Because D’s love-hate relationship with her F, lead her to
    fantasize him killing himself, but she could not guiltlessly ‘carry-out’
    or direct the suicide, so D cleans up her fantasy narrative, which we
    are watching, as she goes along.

    If the nose job, as
    first misleadingly presented was from F’s POV, then F could not have
    miraculously have grown a new one, which he seemingly did. But in her
    disturbed fantasy POV, Pinocchio tricks are quite reasonable and
    acceptable.

    What we are now forced to do, as logic
    demanding viewers, is ‘reinvent’ the D’s role and consequently
    re-interpret the whole darn movie.

    For myself, I
    assume F is truly schizophrenic along the many fractured personality
    lines we saw heretofore. I assume D was indeed an assistant to F and
    that F and others were as stressed out as presented.

    I
    see D as a damaged soul from being brought up in a high-energy
    dysfunctional famous family, where her mother was a loving enabler to
    both F and D’s mental illness, as she tried to keep it all altogether
    and herself needed.

    Furthermore, D has become a
    defenseless and self destructive raw nerve, who cannot separate herself
    from all the stresses around her in the theater and so the movie is
    represented so emotionally from her damaged POV.

    As
    for Feminist being unknowing carriers of the .dreaded Male POV, yes, is
    is possible, unfortunately, even likely. Too often, I fear.

    That
    which we react to, too often shapes how we react, in its own image. But
    this is more than I am prepared to go into and I mean no personal
    disparagement by the little I venture to say already.

    If I did not think respectfully of you, I would not have wasted my time writing what I have written above.

  • I don’t understand how your long review is a response to the comment you’re replying to.

    Perhaps you have mistaken this comments section as a place where you can post your own reviews. It is not. Please engage with my review and with the other commenters.

  • As for Feminist being unknowing carriers of the .dreaded Male POV, yes, it is possible, unfortunately, even likely. Too often, I fear.

    Agreed. (Except for the “dreaded.” No one has said that men already allowed their own perspective. It’s its dominance and its assumed neutrality that is the problem.) But you’re going to have to show how I’ve done that here.

    And I don’t think you have. You’ve described the final scene as having taken place from the POV of the daughter. But you haven’t described how the entire movie works if it’s supposed to be from her perspective. She would have to be a much bigger participant in the action throughout the film for this to be true.

  • Todd

    Thank you, MaryAnn, for correcting me–and for doing so in a respectful manner. This is my first time posting an opinion, and I did not realize that this format is only for a responses to specific preceding statements. This make sense to me, and I apologize for disrupting the natural flow of discourse. Sorry about that.

    Have a good rest of the day.

  • Todd

    Thank you, MaryAnn, for correcting me–and for doing so in a respectful manner. This is my first time posting an opinion, and I did not realize that this format is only for a responses to specific preceding statements. This make sense to me, and I apologize for disrupting the natural flow of discourse. Sorry about that.

    Have a good rest of the day.

    Sincerely,

    -Todd A. W.

  • Sam

    I see no reason to
    underestimate D’s creativity and intelligence. The punch-line to an old joke fits
    here. “Hey, she may be crazy, but she’s not stupid!”

    Likewise, never underestimate a neurotic’s/psychotic’s ability to conceal and
    defend their serious mental issues. Its the slow-witted who cannot present a
    consistent narrative and who get caught out and tagged out early.

    As the ‘omniscient’ story
    teller, D hides her story-telling-self, right up to the last scene.

    She presents a brilliant story “as-if” it is being told by the
    male lead, her F (father). But this clever charade is exposed in the
    last scene. In this scene, we see that there never ever was a nose destroyed
    Father-story-teller in the hospital room and presumably on the stage
    and so on back and back.

    All along, she is the story teller, not F.

    Revelation comes finally, when we see only
    her acting out the delusions that there ever was a F in the hospital
    room and we see D hallucinating her F as Birdman in the
    sky.

    How much of the story up to then is fact based or delusional is left up to our imagination. How much of her story
    she saw in person or recreated from gossip or totally
    fantasized/created is left for us to guess.

    In sum: She had tricked everyone
    by perfectly presenting the male POV, as absurd as it was/is.

  • I don’t think there is any way to support your theory based on what is actually on the screen.

  • Constable

    Boyhood… Boyhood was an expensive film gimmick, Truman Show lite.

  • FYI, *Boyhood* was a ridiculously cheap film to make; the reported budget is $4 million.

  • Constable

    Expensive in time, having to wait for about 20 years to release it.

  • Finally saw this last night. Walked out of the theater wondering what on earth I just saw. I’m not sorry I saw it. The performances were great. I’m just not as enamored as you are, definitely not as enamored as the critics who found it transcendent. My theory — and you can tell me if you think I’m wrong — is that critics, who see so, so many films, are going to be grateful beyond measure when they’re presented with something that isn’t utterly unpredictable.

    As for …

    [SPOILERS]

    … the Exit: Stage Window at the end, do you think he actually killed himself, or was actually flying around, as his daughter’s reaction would suggest? Or was the whole hospital scene a fantasy, and he really did die on stage? OR, is it meant to be ambiguous, and even the filmmakers don’t have an answer?

    My take is that it’s the latter, and that whatever option you believe says more about you than the film. I prefer to believe that Riggan really did survive shooting himself and is actually flying around at the end. I believe it not because there’s more evidence for it than the other alternatives, but because I really want this thing to have a happy ending.

  • I think you’re right about the ending intended as ambiguous.

    SPOILER

    I would tend toward “Everything after the gunshot is fantasy/the last thoughts in Riggan’s dying brain.” The vindication of the positive review is too perfect. And the unlikelihood of a new nose is too ridiculous. :-)

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