Here's an unusual mix of a movie.  Birdman: or, (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is part comedy, part drama, part roman a clef, part theater, part satire, and part insanity -- overlaid with a jazzy drumbeat.

Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, who's something of a dark parody of Keaton.  Riggan had been a blockbuster movie star playing Birdman in three movies over two decades ago.  Now he's a washed-up actor, staking everything -- his reputation, his finances, even his sanity -- on a Broadway production of  theRaymond Carver short story "What We Talk About When We Talk about Love"  that Riggan adapted, directs, produces, and stars in.
 Naturally, the play -- still in previews -- seems to have nothing but problems.  Riggan's lawyer and friend Jake (Zack Galifanakis) is working to keep everything working together.  Riggan's cynical daughter Sam (Emma Stone) is fresh out of rehab and wandering around as an assistant.  Laura (Andrea Riseborough) is one of the plays' stars, and tells Riggan that she's having their baby.  When a stage accident takes out an actor, Broadway newcomer Leslie (Naomi Watts) brings in her boyfriend Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), who's box office and critical gold; he's also amazingly hard to work with.  Oh, and when he's alone Riggan hallucinates that he has superpowers and that Birdman is talking to him to get him to do more Birdman movies.
Birdman is a whole lot of things, as it meanders from comedy to introspection to fantasy to drama as much as the (seemingly) single camera shot that jumps from characters to characters for the whole movie.   While it works, it's also disjointed and somewhat disorienting.  The movie has terrific acting, and there are plenty of laughs (especially the Times Square walk) and moments of tenderness and discovery.  But it's hard to settle in and enjoy or appreciate one scene or tone before the movie jumps into a new one.  Birdman is definitely unique and enjoyable, but I wish it had come together or held together a little bit tighter.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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