Birdman: Some Heroes Wear Two Masks

Posted: April 30, 2015 by jperritt in Comedy, Drama
Tags: , , ,

birdmanposterBirdman was definitely your unconventional Best Picture Winner.  It will, no doubt, be viewed as strange for most moviegoers.  While it definitely has it’s fair share of unusual qualities, I don’t really find it all that bizarre.  I’m pretty certain I’m not the only person that talks to myself, and it’s simply this introspective communication that makes up most of the content that’s viewed as “weird”.

Let me first say that I think Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Riggan/Birdman deserved the Oscar for Best Actor.  While Eddie Redmayne did a fine job, there are plenty of other actors that could have pulled that off (In fact, fellow nominee Benedict Cumberbatch also portrayed Stephen Hawking).  I felt that the character of Riggan had greater depth and Keaton did a phenomenal job.

However, I was simply blown away with the extended shots this film contained.  It was unreal how few cuts this film actually contained – I’m sure if I googled it, I would find out.  The complexity of extended shots is overwhelming for the actors and film crew.  If one person misses a line or one of the set crew is out of place, the whole scene is blown and they have to go back to square one.  All of this to say, it’s really hard to do what director Alejandro G. Iñárritu did.


The film follows the story of Riggan.  A former big-budget movie star who’s attempting to redefine himself through the theater…and I don’t mean movie theater.  Riggan is determined to break the image that’s been assigned to him, by writing, directing, and acting in a Broadway play.

Riggan’s character – as many of us can identify with – has become obsessed with other’s opinions of himself.  This initial obsession led to him donning the Birdman mask.  And, while it produced fame and money, his newest endeavor seeks to destroy the mask that constantly plagues him.  Much of the plague manifests itself in an inner battle between Riggan and Birdman.

This film doesn’t sanitize the depravity of the theater – both on and off the set.  In my estimation, the viewer gets an accurate portrayal into the world behind the theater curtain.  To put it bluntly, it ain’t pretty (viewer be warned).  Debauchery and vice are an aspect of each and every character as we get a front-row seat into their lives.  The flaws of these characters even manifest itself onstage, making the viewer assume the play will be an enormous failure.

Riggan’s attempt at theater, however, becomes a success.  Even as he’s guaranteed a devastating review from New York’s most notable critic, his efforts seem to win the audience over.  Yet, as we come to expect, Riggan has a surprise left for the audience.  During the climax of the play, Riggan’s character commits suicide.  While the gun has been a prop throughout the rehearsals, Riggan takes a loaded gun onstage for the live performance.  Sure enough, he puts the gun up to his head and pulls the trigger, moving the viewer to assume he’s just killed himself in front of a live audience.

The next scene opens in a hospital room, where we discover that Riggan is still alive.  As he fired the revolver, he actually blew his nose off instead of his brains out.  As he regains consciousness, Jake (Zach Galifinasakadkjas) informs him that the play has been a huge success.  What’s interesting, however, is that Riggan now has a new mask.  Blowing his nose off resulted in plastic surgery and we see him covered in gauze and bandages, resembling a mask.  He’s succeeded in ridding himself of the Birdman mask – which was beloved by fans – only to don the Surgical Mask which is also beloved by a new audience.

To be completely candid, Birdman is a film I don’t completely understand (there’s much I’m still processing).  What I do know is that it contains excellent dialogue that will resonate with most humans, because Riggan is us in so many ways.  We are shaped by opinions of others and we’re longing for acceptance.  Because of this, we put on mask after mask, hoping to find significance in the eyes of others.  For the Christian, however, we already possess something no audience can take away.  And it’s not a mask but a robe.  We just need to talk to ourselves more often about it.

  1. Ruben Cardenas says:

    Great film (though I’m also still processing it—even months after seeing it). And thank God for such a redemptive (new and everlasting) identity we receive in Christ.

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