November 6, 2014

'Birdman' ... why bother

By Dan Webster

I didn’t know what to expect. So I shouldn’t be disappointed, right?

Well, I was.

It was clever. The videography was innovative. (The Steadicam operator more than earned his IATSE rate and the editing followed suit). The music soundtrack was stark. The acting was good; great in spots. Some are calling it a new genre.

So why didn’t I like it?

It was an angry rant at Hollywood’s penchant for comic books on screen and it takes on critics.  Michael Keaton gets to say on screen what nearly every actor, at one time or another, has wanted to say to a critic face to face.

There is one powerful exchange between Keaton, who plays an aging actor trying to rebirth a career, and his daughter played by Emma Stone. She challenges him on who he really is as a person. As I watched it I recalled Parker Palmer’s words in Let Your Life Speak, Listening to the Voice of Vocation, about insecurity around one's own identity and worth.

“There is a well-known form of this syndrome, especially among men, in which our identity becomes so dependent on performing some external role that we become depressed, and even die, when that role is taken away," writes Palmer.

The distributor held the movie in limited release for a couple weeks but the box office receipts are pushing it wider. And there’s all that Oscar buzz for Keaton who, like his character, has been missing from the big screen for several years.

I know “Entertainment Weekly” gave it an A- and was at the top of its rating list the first week of November. But I think that’s just the novelty winning critics. There are lots of clichés in this film which you can overlook, enjoy the novelty of the production, but don’t miss the message about being relevant, being your true self and not being what you do.

Or, if the self-worth and identity question is what you're interested in, get Palmer's book and spend some time exploring that with yourself, your therapist, your loved ones, and even God.

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