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Birdman: 2 STARS

*A special post to celebrate me actually going to the cinema. This film is not 20 years old! Let us celebrate! If you were thinking this film would be about superheroes I must warn you it isn’t. I kinda thought it would be but it seems it is about actors. In my opinion an actor is not as good as a superhero but sadly Inarritu did not ask me*

(SPOILERS. There could be spoilers. Because I can’t be bothered to write without them. But even if you haven’t seen it I think you should still read because I’m not in the business of giving away twists or dealing out shocking revelations. My spoilers are much more of a ‘then Michael Keaton is a dick’ variety. TW for trivialised rape attempt. I guess that’s kind of a spoiler but a necessary and vague one)

“Does she speak?” – Mike

“She does. Yeah, she can sit, stay, and roll over if you have any treats.” – Sam

I did not care for this film. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t think it was horrible. But I also didn’t think it was good, which is, it seems, what everyone is pretending that it is. As my friend who accompanied me wisely said, it was pretentious in many directions. It seemed both cynical and naive and it also seemed to have confused realism with constant references to twitter. It was modern Hollywood navel gazing and it was not nearly clever enough to get away with being so lacking in joy. The only good bits actually had Birdman in them. But that is just one woman’s opinion. What matters for our purposes is that the women in this film, the female characters, are both treated terribly and are themselves little more than stereotypes for Michael Keaton to blame his emotionally stunted self on. In this woman’s opinion.

The Bechdel Test

– Developed Female Relationships

(This film has many women in it but they do not converse. The main female characters are The Ex-Wife, The New Girlfriend and The Estranged Daughter. What my father rather wonderfully referred to as the unholy trinity of Hollywood cinema. And that they are time and again; the perfect props for any male ego, however gigantic. The wife you loved but who you are a bit too wild for. The girlfriend who will never live up to her and the daughter who hates you for neglecting her but now your trying really hard/you say one nice thing to her, so you deserve to be forgiven. There is one moment when Naomi Watts’ and Andrea Riseborough’s characters have a long conversation but it is entirely about their massively shit boyfriends and includes the terrible exchange which is meant to get a big laugh and sadly did in Ipswich Film Theatre: Naomi: “I wish I had more self respect” Andrea: “Darling you’re an actress”. Ha ha actresses have no self respect but actors are wonderful bastions of truth and bravery. Was anyone else strongly reminded of that bit in Notting Hill where those guys are discussing how actresses are basically prostitutes? Because I was)

STAR: Non-stereotyped Female Characters

Developed, Prominent Female Characters

(Just. fucking. barely. I mean the unholy trinity are hardly very developed but they are on screen a lot and they are sort of based on what real women are like. As can be seen above Sam, Emma Stone, does at least object to being referred to as a dog. Of course she later hooks up with Mike so her objection is not too fervent. Emma Stone is really the person who stops this film getting the second star. She is a caricature of middle aged men’s fears about what the youth of today are like. An ex junkie whose most daring antics are still very truth or dare based and who accuses her dad of not being a real person because he doesn’t have facebook. Like that reference isn’t going to date this film horribly in 10 years. This woman is a 13 year old rebel, and she robs this film of stars, although you have to admire the steely glint in her eyes at all times, I do love Emma Stone)

No Excessive Air of Misogyny

– No Rigid Adherence to Gender Norms

(Yeah pretty excessive. I mean if women are actresses they have no self respect, and if they aren’t they’re civilians who are cut out of the brave and noble duty of telling the truth. Oh and of course if they’re critics, and if they dare to be over 40 and not constantly smiling they are a bitch with ‘a face like she licked a tramp’s arse’, a charming phrase which is rather lovingly repeated on several occasions during this film)

STAR: No Excessive Female Exposure or Sexualisation

No Objectification of the Female Body

(A surprising star for a blockbuster of this calibre to get, but the men are actually more naked than the women believe it or not. However the dreaded Mike, Edward Norton, although he does show us all his lovely bum does also comment on Emma Stone’s bum the moment he meets her. As a disciple of the truth it seems we are supposed to respect this in him. We, meaning I, do not)

No Gratuitous or Trivialising Scenes of Rape or Male Violence Against Women

– No Threat of Male Violence Against Women

(“He tried to fuck me in front of the entire audience”. Another example of Mike’s commitment to the truth. What a character. What an attempted rapist. Also, Mr Keaton himself is not exactly the loveable egoist he’s painted as. When asked why they broke up his ex wife said that he threw a kitchen knife at her. That’s not cool Michael. That’s domestic abuse. So once again horrible crimes sneak in under the guise of moral ambiguity. When Michael grabs the critic’s notes and verbally assaults her she says ‘I’m going to call the police’. This is a world where women are frightened and where we are supposed to crow over their fear. Well if I haven’t quite lived up to her mission of writing the worst review anyone has ever written and destroying this film I have made an effort at least to deflate the hype. Even if I am but a lowly bitch critic who is daring nothing, while these great artistic men are so thoroughly out on their daring limb)

2 Stars and 2 Bonus points. 1 for LGBT+ women because Naomi and Andrea kiss after their long chat about their boyfriends. Is this kind of behaviour which is clearly meant to be an “experimental” way for damaged women to revenge themselves on their boyfriends worthy of a bonus point? Well yes basically but the above caveats do apply. Also one for women in power. For the critic does hold the power to break his play and in this film the play’s very much the thing. I suppose that’s the problem really, that the play is more important than the people and that this hierarchy is applauded to the detriment of all of the characters but most particularly and unpleasantly to the detriment of the female characters. In one woman’s opinion. Fly away Emma, and leave your awful father behind.

*I did not care for Birdman but I am perfectly happy to recommend Inarritu’s previous film Biutiful. For beautiful is what it is, harrowing and perhaps similarly occupied with middle aged masculinity but in a sensitive and interesting way which helps demonstrate that that occupation is not of itself bad. It is when the women in a man’s life are sacrificed to his personal development that I take issue to his self exploration. So watch Biutiful and enjoy superheroes because they are not the opposite of art*