Birdy - Alan Parker

The Nic Cage Project: Birdy

Birdy is a film about a boy who thinks he is a bird.

Birdy - Alan Parker
Say action already, I worked on this hair for ten hours!

You might think to yourself, “Why, that’s perfect! Who could play a bird better than Nicolas Cage?” But Nic Cage doesn’t play the boy who thinks he’s a bird. Matthew Modine, who you might remember from Full Metal Jacket or Transporter 2, plays the boy who thinks he is a bird. Nic Cage plays the boy who is the childhood friend of the boy who thinks he is a bird. You might ask yourself “Why isn’t Nic Cage playing the boy who thinks he is the bird? Isn’t that role the juiciest part for an actor of Nic Cage’s calibre to sink his teeth into?”

Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps it would have been a juicier role. Perhaps, if Nic Cage had played it, he would have won his well-deserved Oscar eleven years before Leaving Las Vegas. But Nic Cage didn’t play the boy who thinks he’s a bird, and thank God for that, because if Nic Cage and some guy that looks like Matthew Modine were flirting with some broads on the Atlantic City boardwalk, would you really expect the guy that looks like Matthew Modine to get laid?

Birdy - Alan Parker
I'm dressed as a pigeon. Your argument is invalid.

No, you wouldn’t. Because the guy that looks like Matthew Modine would probably also look like a guy that thinks he’s a bird, or weirder, and he would continue to look like he thinks he’s a bird while Nic Cage is making love to a beautiful babe under the dock.

That’s right. Nic Cage is too cool to play a guy who thinks he’s a bird, because a guy who thinks he’s a bird is just too strange to be as cool as Nic Cage. Peter Gabriel’s ambient score tries to be as cool as Nic Cage, but it fails, mainly because Nic Cage didn’t write the score.

Nic Cage is instead, Al Columbato, a working class Italian teenager in Philadelphia who befriends Birdy (Modine), a boy obsessed with Birds. At first he helps Birdy capture pigeons to train as carrier pigeons, then he helps Birdy build contraptions that might enable him to fly, and then he gets mad at Birdy for being to obsessed with birds to do anything with girls and then they go to war, the Vietnam War. When they get back, Al needs a skin graft to reconstruct his face. Birdy sits in a room at a military mental hospital, neck craned and folded over, looking towards his barred window, like a bird. It’s Al’s job to resuscitate Birdy’s human consciousness.

Birdy - Alan Parker
My face is in bandages. Your argument may contain some validity.

Yet even with his face covered in bandages, Nic Cage still exudes coolness. It might not be hard to be cooler than a guy who thinks he’s a bird, but it’s harder than you might think if your face is covered in bandages.

But perhaps the best indication of the cool exuded by Nic Cage is in an exchange about breasts, the human female kind, between Al and Birdy. Birdy thinks they’re “just overgrown mammary glands,… just like on a cow but in a more stupid place”.

Nic Cage asserts that “No! We’re talking tits here! Big tits! Round tits! Fleshy tits! Full tits!”

Yeah, Nic Cage knows what’s what.

Rating: Five unquestionably “cool” haircuts out of five.

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