Even skeptics can anticipate. I won't be seeing Alejandro G. Iñárritu's Birdman (a still is above, featuring costars Michael Keaton and Edward Norton) until about a month from now, and of course I'm highly curious, albeit not particularly keen on participating in any "wars" about the thing. As it happens, when the director's last film, Biutiful, was in theaters, I contributed a piece to Film Comment entitled: "This Can't End Well: How We Live Now, or The New Humanism according to Alejandro González Iñárritu." The piece, which appeared in the November/December 2010 issue, cannot be accessed online, or else I'd just link to it. So I've distilled the gist of my argument from the essay's final paragraphs, for your consideration:
[…]Iñárritu’s films […] always withhold anything even vaguely resembling a happy ending […] are nevertheless in the uplift business. While trucking in […] liberal pieties, his that’s-just-the-way-it-is perspective resists explicit ideology, so as to evade the idea that there might be anything resembling a genuine political response to any of the human misery his films depict. […] This really does let everybody off the hook, but the perspective doesn’t so much come out and congratulate the audience as it does Iñárritu himself: for his seemingly self-proclaimed insistence on looking at all of the pain of human existence with an unflinching gaze. And of course it is that which spurs on a form of audience self-congratulation: ‘He gets it, and I get it the way that he gets it.’ Iñárritu invites you to wallow in his tragic sense. And this, of course, is what makes his films sort of critic-proof. But it’s also what makes so many critics feel he’s a strong-arm artist, a filmmaker who instead of allowing the audience to respond emotionally, bludgeons or even blackmails them into being moved.
Near the end of [Biutiful], [Javier] Bardem’s character, grinding closer and closer to his death, takes his young daughter in a tight embrace and, almost melting into her, begs, “Remember me. Don’t forget me, Ana.” The shot is simply composed, the sentiment the character expresses is, you’ll excuse the term, universal, and the actors note-perfect. It’s as naked and ‘real’ and moving a thing as Iñárritu has ever put on film, an unabashed and unadorned depiction of human frailty, vulnerability, and vanity. And then he has to go and spoil it all by cutting from that to the in-your-face resolution of a storyline involving a couple of the film’s Asian ‘entrepreneurs,’ which rings ten times more falsely than it ordinarily would have, had the prior scene not rung so true. It’s as if Iñárritu can’t help himself. Again: can he? Looks as if we won’t find out until his next film.