Birdman has had quite an effect on me since my wife and I saw it last week. While it didn’t quite hold together as totally as I’d hoped, it’s a truly ambitious movie. See it if you want to watch some very talented artists really putting themselves out there.
The movie got me thinking (again) about genre: is Birdman a sci-fi movie? I’ll avoid dropping any spoilers, but much of the movie seems to deal with what Philip K. Dick scholars call “The Reality Problem.” I spent a long time wondering whether Michael Keaton’s character, Riggan Thomson, was delusional or whether the reality being presented to the audience—Riggan’s powers, his visions, his constant companion and interlocutor—should be taken at face value. And is a movie only science fiction when the character really has telekinetic powers? If we decide Riggan was delusional, does Birdman become an art film instead?
I know terms like “science fiction” and “art film” are really marketing categories designed to sell movies to target demographics. And I hate how habituated I am to those categories. But that doesn’t mean the categories are meaningless: there is such a category as “science fiction.” Where does Birdman fit? And what other recent movie seems this hard to categorize?