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February 4th, 2019   |   Updated on July 22nd, 2022

A washed-up superhero actor attempts to revive his fading career by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway production.

Riggan Thomson is an actor who played the famous and iconic superhero “Birdman” over 20 years ago. Now, in his middle-age, he is directing his debut on Broadway, a drama called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”, an adaptation from a Raymond Carver story. With the help of his assistant and daughter Sam, and his producer Jake, he will play out the show previews, even when a talented actor he hired on, Mike Shiner act arbitrarily, the internal issues between him and the other casts, his useless maximum efforts to critics, and the unexpected voices of his old character- the Birdman, pushing his sanity until the first debut show.

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Movie Reviews: ‘Birdman’

Movie Review: Associated Press

The fodder for industry jokes is endless. When a key actor is suddenly incapacitated, Riggan ponders possible replacements with his friend and attorney, Jake (Zach Galifianakis, exercising admirable comic restraint). Woody Harrelson? He’s doing the next “Hunger Games.” Robert Downey Jr.? Nah, “Avengers.” That other guy? He’s doing the prequel to the prequel.

Luck strikes like a thunderbolt when Mike Shiner (Edward Norton, superb) shows up to read for the part. Mike may be an entitled jerk, but he’s a bankable star. The scenes between Keaton and Norton as they rehearse, compete and occasionally brawl like testosterone-fueled youngsters are simply dynamite, two actors firing on all cylinders.

Then there’s Sam, Riggan’s daughter, fresh from rehab and working as Dad’s assistant. It’s fun to see Emma Stone play a more troubled, unstable character here; her eyeliner-rimmed eyes seem to contain both love and loathing for her father.

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Movie Review: Salon

In some ways “Birdman” seems like a major departure for Iñárritu, the immensely talented and too often achingly earnest director of “Biutiful” and “Babel” and “21 Grams.” (And of course his blistering debut film, “Amores Perros,” still the best thing he’s ever done.) It’s an overtly comic film, an exaggerated backstage satire made entirely in English and shot on location in New York.

Riggan’s dramatic adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” – an intentionally dreadful idea – is staged in and around the real St. James Theatre on 44th Street, a legendary Broadway house that has hosted major theatrical premieres from “Oklahoma!” to “Tommy” to “American Idiot.” But beneath its arch, farcical and fanciful surface, its accelerated dialogue and its amped-up showbiz characters, “Birdman” is still an Iñárritu film.

It’s a quasi-religious fable about a man haunted by the past and facing a profound moral and existential crisis in the present, and it’s a dazzling display of virtuoso cinematic technique and showboat performances. In structural and moral terms, in fact, it tells almost exactly the same story as “Biutiful,” which starred Javier Bardem as a divorced, dying Barcelona dad with a terrible secret, and wasn’t funny at all.

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Movie Review: Toronto Sun

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is the sort of movie that ends up on a person’s favourite-movies-of-all-time list. It’s really that fresh.

Michael Keaton — wonderfully wired as always — stars in this black comedy about celebrity and show business. He’s Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor whose career needle got stuck on Birdman, the caped crusader role he played a generation ago. (Sound familiar? Keaton was Batman twice, more than 20 years ago.)

Hoping to kick-start his career, Riggan is starring in a Broadway play based on the vaguely depressing Raymond Carver story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love; Riggan is also directing.

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