For those who have been patiently waiting for October and the slew of horror movies that come with it to pass, welcome to November! To kick off the month sans horror, I turned to a limited release film now in theaters I’ve been itching to see. That movie, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).?Today we take a look at its star, Michael Keaton, in a film that draws on his many different facets.
Bewteen incompetent workers and a hard-assed boss (Richard Masur), work leaves Doug Kinney (Michael Keaton) with no time for his family. His wife Laura (Andie MacDowell) isn’t happy with the situation especially since she’s been offered a chance to go back into realty. At his wit’s end, Doug has a meltdown on the job site in front of one Dr. Leeds (Harris Yulin). Leeds understands Doug’s frustrations and offers him a rare opportunity, to lighten his load through the science of cloning. Soon original Doug and the new Doug work out a plan to give Doug more time to relax while #2 handles the stress of work. It ?isn’t long before all of Doug’s extra time is absorbed by the kids’ activities and housework, necessitating #3. With two extra Doug’s around, original Doug can finally get the break he needs, except he soon realizes he’s as out of touch with his family as he ever was.
Directed by the late Harold Ramis,?Multiplicity?comes from the minds of a number of writers, including some uncredited work by Ramis. A $45 million production in 1996 numbers, it sadly made back less than half of its budget. A good bit of that budget went into making the Dougs’ shared experiences seem natural. In that regard, it’s quite impressive by 90’s standards, well except for the times all four Dougs have to be present. While it is a far cry from a comedic masterpiece, it deserves some credit for examining, at least in parts, the stresses of the modern family.
That examination, and the comedy that ensues, is left squarely on the shoulders of Michael Keaton. Original Doug is a good-intentioned, but stressed husband, father, and employee during the infancy of cellular technology. He doesn’t even have time to figure out how he could possibly juggle work and home effectively. Sure, possibly hiring an afternoon nanny, a housekeeper or the occasional laborer for home repairs might have helped the Kinneys, but they seemed to strapped for such extravagances. Luckily, Leeds cutting-edge technology seems the perfect ?and more affordable alternative.
While the idea of adding on a second and third full-time mouth to feed, clothe, and house only makes fiscal sense in the movies, it’s because it gives Keaton a chance to tweak Doug’s “I’m trying here” persona to the extreme. Stripped of his family responsibility, #2 dives headlong into work, becoming a beer-swilling, tail-chasing, rough around the collar guy. #3, whose steeped in home life, puts aside his blueprints, hammer, and gruff attitude in favor of recipe books, aluminum foil, and sensitivity. Laura’s chance encounters with these concentrated Dougs always leaves her feeling more confused about her husband and their strained relationship. Throughout all the hijinks with Laura and his coworkers, Keaton is pulling out all the stops. When #2 and #3, a.k.a. Lance and Rico, decide they’re too stressed and bring home the lovable Lenny, Keaton really has a cross-eyed, paste-eating good time.
Naturally, the point of this protracted gimmick is to show Doug the root problem still lies with him. It’s the choices he’s made; choosing the dead-end, unrewarding job time and again over the needs of his wife and kids and their fixer-upper home. The problem with Multiplicity is it opens too many questions about Doug, his marriage, and the life of his clones to adequately resolve them all in a neat little package. Things, like his kids, have to be glossed over for the sake of the punchline. Let’s face it; Multiplicity isn’t meant to be an in-depth examination of being a successful family unit. It grabs a nugget of truth from the average audiences’ over-stressed lives and helps them de-stress by laughing at someone else’s ridiculous attempts to conquer their problems.