‘Birdman’ Kicks Off the Venice Film Festival – First Reviews Trickle In

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UPDATED
The Venice Film Festival is underway where Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) starring Michael Keaton has screened.  Unfortunately we have no writers on staff in Venice but that doesn’t stop us from collecting the coverage for you (SPOILER FREE), so you can see how the early word is looking for the film.

Alonso Duralde at The Wrap says:

Iñárritu shouldn’t be one to throw stones: emotional pornography is often his stock in trade, with heavy-handed, unearned-bummer message-fests like “21 Grams,” “Biutiful,” and “Babel” on his résumé. “Birdman” sees a previously untapped sense of humor; his screenplay (written in collaboration with Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo) features a mordant sense of humor, full of characters who know how to crack wise even when they’re falling apart.

Xan Brooks of The Guardian calls it “empty”:

Is it a redundancy to complain that Birdman lacks soul? Maybe so. It’s a depthless, self-absorbed film about a shallow, self-absorbed man; jittery and relentless from the first to last gasp. We come scurrying up narrow corridors and up darkened stairwells, through the exploded stage-set of Riggan Thomson’s own head. The delegates applauded; they clearly relished the tour. But they broke for the exit with something approaching relief.

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praises Keaton:

An actor who himself has waited a very long time, and perhaps with diminishing hope, to make a comeback, Keaton soars perhaps higher than ever as a thespian with something to prove when not wearing a funny suit. Casting any sense of vanity out the window — every vestige of aging skin and thinning hair is revealed by the camera — the actor catches Riggan’s ambition and discouragement and everything in between; he’s criticized and beaten down, even, and perhaps especially, by those closest to him, although he does receive some reassurance and understanding from an unexpected source, his ex-wife Sylvia (Amy Ryan). Keaton skillfully conveys how this old bird can let even the most alarming setbacks just slide off his once-feathered back to get on with the show, one his whole future rides upon — unless, of course, it doesn’t.

Cath Clarke of Time Out gives some love to Emma Stone:

‘Birdman’ is hilarious simply as a film about putting on a play, shot by Iñárritu in a jittery, handheld style. Emma Stone, with ripped tights and bleached hair, is brutally funny as Riggan’s messed-up daughter, fresh out of rehab. There’s something a bit Wes Anderson for grown-ups about these people. Edward Norton is a stage actor a couple of decades too old for his bad boy, rock-star-of-Broadway routine, who joins the troubled play at the eleventh hour. When he gets an erection on stage, Stone waspishly points out it’s getting more Twitter reviews than the play.

Jessica Kiang of The Playlist loves it:

Nothing in Iñárritu’s back catalogue can prepare you for this new direction. Many an auteur has switched genre and mood; seldom have we seen such a total change of sensibility. If it resembles any film, at all, it’s probably Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche,” but with a lighter heart and a sly grin. Because here Iñárritu, who in the past has been nothing if not sincere to the point of self-seriousness, suddenly shows us not just his anarchic, uproarious, irreverent sense of humor, but his mischief, not to mention an almost impish delight in the further possibilities of a medium he’d already mastered. So far from resting on his laurels, Iñárritu has, to echo one of the film’s central tenets, risked something. And God, does it pay off: we’re trying to avoid the hyperbolic “redefining the language of cinema”-type comment, but seriously, the film’s bravura, impeccably achieved form has such a gravitational effect that it becomes hard to remember that there was ever another way to tell a story.

Catherine Bray of HitFix says its a sure-fire Oscar bet:

Stone’s is the plum female role. There’s the faintest sense of disappointment that none of the female roles amount to all that much in the final analysis, despite top drawer performances from Watts, Stone and the wonderful Amy Ryan (“The Office”, “Gone Baby Gone”), and that’s sort of fine – it’s Keaton’s show. But none of them get to have quite as much fun as the male secondary roles, either. Norton is monstrous and monstrously funny – there’s the distinct possibility of supporting nominations there – and Zach Galifianakis is superb as Keaton’s put-upon, say-anything producer.

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