1980s, 2.5/4, Review

Bird

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#27 in my ranking of Clint Eastwood’s films.

I have a problem with biopics.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story completely ruined them for me. Of course, Dewey was targeting contemporary Oscar bait movies like Walk the Line, but it still highlighted some of the major flaws in the basic biopic that I’ve never been able to shake.

A man lives for 34 years, and then he dies. In those 34 years, he marries more than once, has children, pursues a career in music, battles with drug addiction, and has more highs and lows than most people have in lives twice as long. And that’s all supposed to be captured in one sitting in a movie theater.

Bird is not a short movie. At two hours and forty minutes, it’s a hefty look into one man’s life, but because Charlie Parker’s life was so full, the movie, despite its length, still ends up feeling too short. Too shallow. Too staccato.

Forest Whitaker is a fine actor who portrays Parker warmly and sadly. It’s a very good performance, along with all of the other actors around him. One thing that Eastwood as a director has always been good at is directing actors, and this is definitely no different. The music is well presented, though I’m not a jazz fan so my appreciation of it was somewhat limited.

My problem really is about trying to squeeze a giant life into a short timeframe. I think it’s better to try to capture the essence of a man through a concentrated moment in his life, like how Spielberg approached Lincoln. It wasn’t a movie about his rise in Illinois politics, ascendancy to the presidency, the fight of the Civil War, capped with a fight over the 13th Amendment. It was about the 13th Amendment.

Bird was finely produced and well acted, but it felt too all over the place, trying to gather up as much of the life of Charlie Parker that could fit into 160 minutes. It was really well received upon its release, and its obvious that Eastwood had a lot of love for the subject, but I just wished for greater focus.

Netflix Rating: 3/5

Quality Rating: 2.5/4

2 thoughts on “Bird”

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