Short Takes: Birdman, Nightcrawler & St. Vincent

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Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman is a stale, one-note show biz satire with an ambitious and occasionally dazzling formal design. Led by a manic performance by Michael Keaton as a washed-up super hero movie star attempting a comeback on the stage, Birdman weaves in and out of his Raymond Carver adaptation with a string of impressively executed tracking shots.

Birdman is more about executing and fusing those long takes than about saying anything exciting or fresh about theater or performance, though.  Iñárritu’s images are sleek but ultimately bland and empty, and the story about a middle-aged man reclaiming his glory is too.  Keaton’s performance as Riggan is the loudest, but I was moved more by Andrea Riseborough as his co-star and Lindsay Duncan as a bitter New York Times theater critic.  The two actresses have an irrepressible screen presence, and they quietly steal scenes from the self-parodying turns by Keaton and Edward Norton.  Grade: D+

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