A has been movie mega-star (Michael Keaton), haunted by the spirit of his onscreen superhero alter ego, is mounting a comeback in the form of a theatrical presentation of a Raymond Carver short story which he is ambitiously adapting, directing and starring in. In addition to the burdens these tasks carry, he must also contend with his critical daughter/assistant (Emma Stone), a wound tight stage manager and best friend (Zach Galifianakis), an insecure star (Naomi Watts), a needy girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough), a concerned ex-wife (Amy Ryan), a Times journalist bent on trashing him, and a highly regarded, egotistical, last minute acting replacement (Ed Norton) who holds the ex-matinee idol in low esteem. Birdman is an acute change of pace for director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu from the weighty, multi-plot converging films for which he's become known (Babel, Amores Perros) and features a bravura, self-deprecating performance from Keaton. Unfortunately, the rest of the production comes off as unfunny and sanctimonious with competent actors putting their best foot forward with an inept and unworthy script (by Inarritu and three others). Additionally, the fantasy sequences offer little, wither proving ineffective or strange for strange's sake and Emmanuel Lubezki's camerawork, which is designed to make over 95% of the movie seem like one continuous take, sadly comes off as little more than a gimmick.
** out of ****