It’s the suburbs somewhere in the US. Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis) works in HR for a big firm. He and his wife, Karen (Isla Fisher) have just sent their son off to summer camp when a new couple move into their cul-de-sac – cool travel writer Tim Jones (Jon Hamm) and his stunning wife Natalie (Gal Gadot). Karen becomes suspicious and well she should, because they are spies – but are they spies for good or for bad? And are the suburbs their toughest challenge yet?
Wanna see a good spy movie about spies trying to live normal lives? Watch True Lies (1994) or Mr and Mrs Smith (2005). There are plenty of good and funny moments in this, and it is a really top-notch cast, but it’s just not good enough. It felt a little like it could decide if it was going to be a daggy slapstick or a clever and witty affair and tried for both, missing both by a fair whack.
Riggan (Michael Keaton) is an actor who is best known to the world as Birdman, a superhero from a series of films from the early nineties. He has now, many years later, written a play based on work by Raymond Carver, and is directing and starring in it on Broadway. But things are not going smoothly, his lawyer Jake (Zach Galifianakis) is trying to clean up the mess. When one of the other stars, Lesley (Naomi Watts) suggests famous but volatile Mike (Edward Norton), things get even crazier. Then just add in Riggan’s recovering daughter, Sam (Emma Stone), his ex-wife Sylvia (Amy Ryan) and his current squeeze Laura (Andrew Riseborough). Mad.
I loved this film so much. I loved it like I feel like I haven’t loved a film in ages. It is absurd and strange and clever and surreal and magical. Yet… I’ve spoken to friends who hated this film. Who even walked out of the film. Friends who I have a lot in common with, who are smart and we like a lot of the same things. And I think this is what this film will do – completely polarise the audience. The amazing drum soundtrack will, I’m sure, drive people insane, but I loved it so much – it drove the action and the emotion. Go, see it, love it or hate it, but experience a different type of film.
Birdman was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Michael Keaton), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Edward Norton), Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Emma Stone), Best Achievement in Directing (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo), Best Achievement in Cinematography and Best Achieement in Sound Editing. It won Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Michael Keaton) and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo) and was nominated for Best Director (Aejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Emma Stone), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Edward Norton), Best Original Score – Motion Picture. It was also nominated for BAFTAs for Best Film, Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), the David Lean Award for Direction (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), Best Screenplay (Original) (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo), Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Original Music and Best Sound.
Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwarztman) is a published author who is struggling with his second book. His girlfriend has left him, he is smoking a lot of weed and drinking a lot, and decides to become an unlicensed private detective, advertising on Craig’s list. His best mate, Ray (Zach Galifianakis) draws a cartoon called Super Ray and struggles with his relationship with his wife and baby. Jonathan’s other best mate is George (Ted Danson) the extremely wealthy owner and editor of a magazine. All three make terrible decisions, often whilst stoned, and get in and out of crazy scrapes.
This show is so ridiculous and unbelievable, and yet something about it makes it seem so real. It was created by the real Jonathan Ames, but follows a fictional world that the character Jonathan Ames lives. For me, it’s the best thing Galifianakis has done, and I’ve always enjoyed Schwartzman’s work. But it is Ted Danson who is my absolute favourite – especially when he is so stoned and giggly that he can barely stand up. Danson is awesome, and just seems to taking on better and more varied roles as he ages. I’m looking forward to more.
Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) has held a position as congressman in North Carolina for years, and is again running unopposed. But he continues to make major political gaffes, and uses spin to get around it. The Motch brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Akroyd), who are the faceless men behind politics, need to get someone more respectable in office to ensure their illegal Chinese labor plans get through congress. They find the most unlikely candidate, Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), an eccentric director of a small town tourist centre.
There’s a lot to love in this film. Seeing Will Ferrell punch a baby was definitely a highlight – horrifically detailed slow-motion CGI that is oh-so-wrong, but just worked. Plus, whilst Galifianakis plays an eccentric, the portrayal doesn’t seem to have that cruel edge that a lot of comedy has had over the last few years.
Whilst I enjoyed the film, I felt it didn’t stay strong for the full 85 minutes. The story just seemed to drop off by the end. Good for a laugh, sure, and a lot funnier than I had expected, but not totally grouse.