Ambiguous 'Birdman' leaves audience henpecked and confused
Birdman may be asking if insanity is hereditary. The movie itself seems like one long shot with very few cuts with the camera focusing mostly on Michael Keaton’s Riggan Thomson, the former Birdman, and the problems he is facing as a now irrelevant former movie star looking to Broadway to improve his acting status. The movie itself is not to be trusted as it is clear that Keaton hears Birdman in his mind. He also believes that he has telekinesis and can fly.
While the acting is brilliant and the camera work phenomenal, the film does not lend itself to an easy solution or ending. In fact, the ambiguity in the ending leaves the viewer scratching his or her head. There is no simple answer for what the daughter, played by Emma Stone, sees or doesn’t see.
If the ending isn’t the point, then the question’s that are relevant are about legacy, love, success and when to check out of the game. At a time when people are desperate to hold on to their lives for as long as possible, there may be something to be said for being able to leave on one’s own terms. When there is nothing left, there may be no reason to go on. However, the opposite is also true. When true success has been gained, there may be nothing left to live for. Of course, that reading of Birdman requires a particular reading of the end. There are certainly other positions a person could take.
Birdman seems to be the tale of a man trying to reconcile his previously successful career with is current career failures and his continued failure in relationships, especially the relationship with his daughter and the women that he has loved. These relationships still take a backseat to the career and to Thomson’s own feelings, even while he is trying to bring them to the fore. People do not change very much and as they get older, they find old habits even harder to break. Thomson may want to have more time to spend with his daughter, but he never actually makes the time to do so. Hiring her as a personal assistant is a poor substitute for being there for her as a father.
The father-daughter relationship is at the core of the film, but its screen time is small compared to all of the other superfluous nonsense that inhabits the life of a play opening on Broadway and everything that is risked for that play. In the end, it is the daughter who gives nothing away and leaves the audience guessing what the film was really all about.