An excerpt from my script review for Birdman which will be available 11/17/14:
3.) Quality of Characters
Matt vs. Riggan
Found it very interesting how they were more or less two peas in the same pod.
Riggan is a washed up actor, trying to prove he’s still legitimate.
Matt’s a legitimate stage actor that wants to prove he’s God’s gift to acting.
Where they’re more or less the same, is that they’re only that great in their own minds.
Perfect scene for this, where they’re at a bar, Matt just gets done telling Riggan how he’s super awesome, with Riggan trying to explain he wants to be a serious actor, and a tourist family shows up.
They have no clue who Matt is, and only knows Riggan for his Birdman role, of which, the kid thinks Birdman is Batman’s grandfather or something.
It more or less sums up what the story is about, narcissists who will never live up to the expectations they set for themselves.
And like the Nightcrawler script, you kind of feel bad for the other characters that choose to love them.
It’s been a while since this came up, so I forgot where I generally put it.
I had a problem with all the “big names” that kept being dropped in this script.
That sort of thing really isn’t funny except when those characters later make cameos as themselves.
(The example I’m thinking of is This is the End where Channing Tatum shows up.)
Want the full review? Follow this link to the Birdman Script Review.
And be sure to check out our Notes Service, where I give my detailed thoughts and suggestions on your script.
BIRDMAN or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
At first blush, it might seem like the decision to make Birdman appear as if it contains very few cuts was one that could only be made by a director. But that decision was made long before cameras started rolling, and there is a very important screenwriting lesson to be learned from that decision. The question of “why now” gets bandied about in screenwriting classes and books, but Birdman demonstrates a clear understanding, not to mention an effective answer, to that question.
Because the film pretends not to cut until the climax, the bulk of the movie takes place over roughly two hours. That means no waking up, hitting the alarm clock, getting in the shower, driving to work, typing up a…and I’m already asleep just typing the words. It wouldn’t be a bad exercise for screenwriters to try to distill their stories down to the two most influential hours in their protagonist’s life just to see what happens. There is a sense of urgency that can scarcely be replicated. This two-hour, “real time” storytelling wouldn’t work for a lot of movies. In fact, it most likely wouldn’t work for most movies. But it would be a powerful exercise to help determine what exactly is necessary in order to tell the story of this character in this moment.
Alejandro Iñárritu, the co-writer and director of Birdman, answers the question of “why now” by having enough story and plot upon which to structure a film and by having those disparate elements converge on a single night at a single location. He does this by having an ensemble cast of well-developed characters lead by an axial character ( to borrow a term from the much more ensemble-focused television) with multiple issues bubbling under the surface of his (possibly feathery) skin. These ancillary characters have their own arcs, but they also serve another purpose. They give the main character and the script time to breathe in its pacing. This serves a purpose for the actors, but it also adds a layer of verisimilitude.
The magical realism elements infused in the screenplay are interesting to read, discuss, and consider. But more than that, they’re visually interesting. And herein lies something else for screenwriters to consider. Iñárritu had a sense of the space of his story as he wrote. And he knew that the constraints of time and space given by the real time conceit would make for a film that wasn’t especially cinematic in its visual elements. So the titular character and all he brings with him offers a strong visual aesthetic to go along with the impeccable dialogue and fascinating character that make up the meat of this cinematic feast.