Michael Keaton Takes Flight In Bold, Brilliant "Birdman"

“A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.” Those twelve words – stuck to a Broadway dressing room mirror, citation stubbornly out of focus – best encapsulate “Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance),” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s dizzying, daring master class in cinema. Like its lead character, the movie is a malcontent, utterly unconcerned with reality apart from the construction of its own, unsatisfied to merely play with our preconceptions of film itself. No, Inarritu and his star-powered cast tear those ideas apart, tape them back together, and repeat, packing motion picture, stage play, graphic novel, and gossip column into one surprisingly accessible 100-minute package, tying it together with ribbons of scalding satire.

None of this is to mention that in a world where normal features comprise of thousands of shots, “Birdman” gets by on, oh, about five visible cuts. The rest is constructed to look like one continuous shot.

It’s a surprising leap for Inarritu (“Amores Perros,” “Babel”), a supremely gifted but typically morose storyteller who’s never tried comedy, let alone something as fleet of foot as “Birdman.” It’s a work so fiercely self-aware that it’ll drive many away on sight, but its multi-layered performances and attention to detail are second to none. The filmmaker and his indispensible crew do things with time and space few others have attempted, finding a measured balance of ambition and foolishness, turning a project that could have gone oh-so-wrong into something oh-so-right.

Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is an ex Hollywood A-lister whose early 90s superhero trilogy both made and broke him, burning bright and cratering like the mysterious meteor that opens the film. He’s set his sights on Broadway for his big comeback, adapting, directing, and starring in a stage version of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” With his recovering drug addict daughter Sam (Emma Stone), actress-girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough), and ex-wife S