Study Guide

Birdman What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

What do we talk about when we talk about "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love"? The answer is actually almost as convoluted as the question.

It's not like Iñárritu decided to pick a play out of a hat and somehow ended up with a short story he decided could be an adaptation even though it's just a bunch of people sitting around a table talking. So let's delve into some of the myriad parallels between Riggan's adaptation and Birdman itself.

Dialogue Parallels

Check out how the dialogue this play-within-a-film is repeated offstage.

First, we have a line in the play:

NICK, PLAYED BY RIGGAN: Shut up. For once in your life, will you do me a favor and shut up for a minute.

Later in the hallway, Jake yells at Riggan:

JAKE: Shut up! Just shut up for once and listen to me.

There are lots of people not listening to each other, and Jake needs to talk some sense into Riggan about the Mike situation, just like Nick feels like his story needs to be heard. Then of course we have these lines:

LAURA, PLAYED BY LAURA: I guess we make choices in life and we choose to live with them. Or not.

The "or not" she's talking about have parallels in the "real life" of the movie: (abortion) or erasing life (suicide). Riggan's inability to live with his choices causes him to attempt suicide a few times, and Laura's inability to live with hers leads to an abortion.

Which brings us to…

Character Parallels

We mention in her Character Analysis that Laura is pregnant during the course of the movie, and that the character of Laura (also called Laura) is pregnant in the play. You can't ask for a more striking parallel than that.

Then we have Mike, whose character Mel thinks love is absolute. Mike also thinks in these big black-and-white terms. He is either fully authentic or a complete phony, a man who embraces extremes as much as Mel does.

Riggan's character, Ed, tries and fails to kill himself twice: first with rat poison and a second time with a gun. Sound familiar? Riggan's suicide by drowning is interrupted by jellyfish, and his attempt with a gun just ends up blasting his nose off.

But what about how the play affects on a deeper level? How does his obsession with Raymond Carver's story change him? We're going to hand the mic to Riggan for this one:

RIGGAN: This play is starting to feel like a miniature, deformed version of myself that just keeps following me around and, like, hitting me in the balls with, like a tiny little hammer.

Ah, Riggan. Eloquent as always.

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