- “How did we end up here? This place is horrible” – opening line in “Birdman”
Another flying film about failure. Right from the get-go, “Birdman” reveals its embrace of failure. From its sub-title, “Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance” to its opening line (above).
The protagonist, Riggan, is a this “washed up comic book character” fighting an actor’s death of dreams. As I’ve written, the best antidote for dearly departed dreams a new ones. In Riggan’s case, a return to the authenticity of stage acting…
- “To me… this is – God. This is my career, this is my chance to do some work that actually means something.”
Riggan endures virtually every imaginable calamitous life failure – marriage, career, finances, parenting, psychological. It is sort of an grown-up, cinematic “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”. Yet throughout his Jobian travails, Riggan’s biggest successes stem directly from his biggest failures – losing a lead actor at the last minute, showdown with his estranged daughter, a wildly dramatic and desperate change in – shall we say – stage direction on opening night. And a comical incident where he is locked out of the theatre and lives what must be the ultimate and most widely shared actor nightmare.
One of my favourite scenes is actually another fellow actor’s commentary on her own dream demise. She highlights a fatal hazard to dreams that few people consider…when they come true. Lesley laments…
- “I’m pathetic. You know, I’ve dreamt of being a Broadway actress since I was a little kid. And now I’m here. And I’m not a Broadway actress. I’m still just a little kid. And I keep waiting for someone to tell me I made it.”