Has the media in all forms, right down to our smartphones, made deeper the existentialist crisis that leaves modern man asking, is this all there is? Is there no truth any longer? Is it really this cheap?
The film Birdman is set in the theater in New York city. It is the tale of a washed up superhero actor who set box office records as “Birdman” in the 1990’s and left the role because of what this movie is about; a comic book life was too fake and he wanted something real.
Michael Keaton plays the now broke actor who has put everything he has into this play, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love which is about truth and finding and staying who you really are. It is an uphill climb.
Throughout the film he is haunted by his Birdman former self who critically tempts him out of this old theater and back to the screen to make “Birdman 4” but instead of giving in he wrestles with this schizophrenia. The play is appears early on to be rescued by a narcissistic actor (Ed Norton) who is only true to himself when in front of a audience, the rest of the time he his a hedonistic but hopelessly lost soul as well. The film is littered with these people, those who don’t know who they really are.
Keaton’s play is actually going no where until one night, the last preview, Keaton finds himself trapped outside of the theater in his underwear and a bathrobe. The bathrobe is caught in the door. Having to make an entrance on stage shortly, he leaves the bathrobe behind, and strolls out of the alley into Times Square nearly naked, just in his briefs to make his entrance from the theater lobby.
Handheld videos of all sorts pick this up and go viral on the web. Only then does his play come to life. It isn’t the play, or his work that people applaud, it is his nudity in public.
I wont spoil the ending here but the finale is an equally compelling commentary on what we critically acclaim. Prior to then we are treated to a series of monologues by the cast that leaves one questioning individual existence and worth if just living an ordinary life.
Contrary to how life has always been before, we get a daily dose of what Kim Kardashian has done or not done that day, with a gratuitous photo of some body parts. The truth is she hasn’t done anything worthwhile, but she is “trending”. Do we see multiple copy cat shootings because people want to trend?
This is an important film for anyone who has ever questioned how we spend our time, whether our relationships are as real and solid as perhaps prior generations enjoyed, and just what the impact of mass communication is on the individual.
Has all the glitz and glamour that grabs our attention every morning and all day, now in handheld devices, merely made weak the structure of the soul? Are we really insignificant even in our deepest emotional moment if it is not accompanied by some outrageous behavior caught on a smartphone? How much debasement is necessary to actually “be somebody”? Despite all the connectivity, is the individual more isolated than ever before? Are you who you say you are?