Bird (1988)

Charlie Parker was one messed up dude!

Nicknamed “Yardbird,” Charlie Parker (Forest Whitaker) was a virtuoso saxophonist whose innovations revolutionized jazz. Despite his musical genius, Parker was hopelessly addicted to drugs, and his life started to spur out of control.

Now the film isn’t the usual run of the mill biography that you normally see. It doesn’t start off from the musicians beginnings, and show his life before music. No it starts off with a bang and showing him as this drunk and high fool, blabbering on about God knows what, giving us the impression that this man is not as light as you think.

The one problem with this is that the film shows us more of the man than the music. In some cases this is fine, but here it doesn’t quite work so much. I feel like the film barely ever focused on any of the positives of Parker and just showed him as a wild junkie, who had no regret for his actions. There would be some points of him showing compassion, but that didn’t really work for me since this guy was always shown in such a bad light.

Parker has made such great music but the making of the music itself are barely ever shown. We see him play this great music, but never think about it, find inspiration for it, and most of all write about it. Instead we just him improvise it, and do drugs later on.

However, I cannot lie the music is very good. A lot of the times I found myself really enjoyed by these performances and the music he does, since I do like this music and found it extremely entertaining. I just wish they dived more into the music and what it shows about Parker rather than him just playing it all the time.

Clint Eastwood does a very good job at not getting us too confused with this information crammed into a 2 1/2 hour time limit, but it still didn’t get too gritty for me. We know this guy did heroin, and drank a lot but we rarely ever see him in the action. I wish they showed more of him doing these things because then I would have had a total feel of what he was going through at the time.

A young Whitaker shows his Oscar look early with this complex performance as Parker. Not only does he maintain the emotional scenes, but also shows a great sense of realism during the playing scenes, and looks like we’re watching Parker in real life on screen. The only problem was that some of the others in the cast weren’t as good as him, and showed off to be a bit weak, and he was just playing off them like they were all chumps.

Consensus: Bird has a strong complex performance from Whitaker and amazing music, but never leaves the idea that this man was a junkie, and never touches on the music that made him so famous.


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