Inside Jokes Make ‘Birdman’ Stand Out

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One of the most enjoyable things about Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s “Birdman” is the number of inside jokes it contains. Take for instance its protagonist: a former A-List actor who turned down millions in the early 90s to reprise his role as a flying superhero in a successful franchise. If you guess Michael Keaton, you’d be correct, but Gonzalez Inarritu is actually referring to Riggan Thomson, who is played by Michael Keaton.

Riggan, who is now officially a has-been, has a shot at redemption via Broadway play that he writes, directs and stars in. However, just like his past action movies were the unexpected is always lurking around the corner, Riggan is forced to replace one of the actors at the last minute with a popular, arrogant actor, played brilliantly by Edward Norton. While he dramatically increases ticket sales, he brings nothing but chaos and angst for Riggan and everyone else involved in the project. If that isn’t bad enough, Riggan must also deal with a New York Times arts critic who informs him she has already given the play a bad review even before seeing it, and then there is his increasingly slippery grip on reality.

Part of the beauty of this movie is that we never know what is real and what is merely a projection of Riggan’s mind. Add to that jaw-dropping cinematography courtesy of the same people who gave us last year’s “Gravity,” and “Birdman” is a startling beautiful, funny, creative movie. However, it is also one that most people will either love or hate.

Regardless of the camp you fall into, “Birdman” is at the very least one of the most original films to come around in a while. It’s well worth the ride.