Full title: "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" is a dramedy about an over-the-hill actor who once played a movie super- hero only to walk away from fame and fortune. Now he would like to recapture that life by mounting a play on Broadway.  And NO, Michael Keaton ("Batman" 1989) says this is NOT about his own life although he can see why people might think so.

Directed by the audacious Alejandro González Iñárritu ("Biutiful") we are treated to a star-studded cast and a brilliant, R-rated script. Emmanuel Lubezki's camera work deserves special mention: We feel we are watching long single takes with no editing or cutting. It's daring and the actors have to be on their toes. We follow them through the labyrinthine belly of a Broadway theater with twists and turns that lead to dialogue in various dressing rooms, etc., with no sense that the scene has been cut or edited. Very impressive.

We admire:
  • Michael Keaton ("RoboCop" 2014) Riggan has become more and more disconnected from the people around him, namely his ex-wife, his daughter and his current girlfriend. He has a constant voice in his head that we eventually figure out is "Birdman," his alter ego. Keaton is terrific.
  • Emma Stone ("The Help") is his daughter Sam. She is fresh out of rehab so her hold on sobriety is a bit shaky. Her main criticism of her dad is that he always told her she was special. Stone's diatribe is a revelation. She is very, very good!
  • Lindsay Duncan ("Rome") is Tabitha, the theatre critic who vows to "kill your show." Watching Duncan and Keaton go nose to nose was a special treat.
  • Zach Galifianakis ("The Hangover") is his good friend and manager Jake. He sees the situation that evolves as box-office gold.
  • Edward Norton ("Moonrise Kingdom") Mike is a brilliant actor brought in when the male lead is injured just before previews start. Mike will always be authentic while he is on stage. Off stage is a different matter.
  • Naomi Watts ("St. Vincent") Leslie has always wanted to appear on Broadway but when she asks, "Why don't I have any self respect?" Her co-star explains, "It's because you are an actress."
Be prepared for nudity, some profanity, a bit of smoking (both regular and controlled substances) and lengthy scenes with either Norton or Keaton in tighty whities.

I felt that key plot points were telegraphed a bit too broadly, but maybe I just see too many movies. Ya think? I WILL say this turns out to be unpredictable. I kept thinking I knew where it was going, but then....

You should see this before Oscar time so you will know what everyone is talking about. You also should know that the more I think back on this artistic outing, the less I actually like it! The script, the photography and the acting are all top notch, but I didn't LIKE any of the characters.
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Here is a preview:
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