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Forest Whitaker, Diane Venora, Michael Zelniker, Sam E. Wright, Keith David ... see more see more... , Michael McGuire , James Handy , Damon Whitaker , Morgan Nagler , Richard McKenzie , Arlen Dean Snyder , Sam Robards , Penelope Windust , Glenn Wright , George Orrison , Bill Cobbs , Hamilton Camp , Chris Bosley , George T. Bruce , Joey Green , John Witherspoon , Tony Todd , Jo De Winter , Richard Zavaglia , Anna Levine , Al Pugliese , Hubert Kelly , Billy Mitchell , Karl Vincent , Lou Cutell , Roger Etienne , Jason Bernard , Gretchen Oehler , John Miller , Tony Cox , Diane Salinger , Johnny Adams , Natalia Silverwood , Duane Matthews , Slim Jim Phantom , Matthew Faison , Peter Crook , Alec Paul Rubinstein , Patricia Herd , Steve Zettler , Ann Weldon , Charley Lang , Tim Russ , Richard Jeni , Don Starr , Richard Mawe , Samuel E. Wright

Academy Award-winning director Clint Eastwood ("Letters from Iwo Jima," "Flags of Our Fathers"), a well-known, long-standing jazz aficionado, delivers a compassionate portrait of jazz visionary Charli... read more read more...e "Yardbird" Parker. Eastwood, who won a Golden Globe for Best Director for this film, also paints a vivid portrait of the jazz world in all its complexity. Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winner Forest Whitaker ("The Last King of Scotland," "Phone Booth"), as Parker, provides a multifaceted performance that helps provide an understanding of the man's genius, and tragedy. Co-starring Diane Venora ("The Insider," "Heat"), who along with Whitaker was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in this picture, Bill Cobbs ("Night at the Museum," "The Hudsucker Proxy"), John Witherspoon (the "Friday" movie series, TV's "The Wayans Bros.") and Tony Cox ("Bad Santa," "Epic Movie"). This music-driven film was an Academy Award-winner for Best Sound.

Flixster Users

80% liked it

6,013 ratings

Critics

78% liked it

18 critics

R, 2 hr. 20 min.

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Release Date: October 1, 1988

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DVD Release Date: January 30, 2001

Stats: 271 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (271)


  • November 9, 2012
    This is the biopic of jazz legend Bird Parker.
    Forest Whitaker gives a tour de force performance in the titular role of this biopic. It's a complicated role for Whitaker, filled with moments when he battles segregation with strategic charm and other moments when he's so strung o... read moreut that I found it difficult to sympathize with him. Whitaker handles all the acting challenges with the poise of a seasoned vet.
    Clint Eastwood's direction captures the feel of jazz. Smoky nightclubs, some quick dialogue, and an ever-present brassy score bring back the environment of the time with a bygone verisimilitude.
    While the narrative structure - telling the middle of the story at the beginning - works toward the start of the film, it falls apart halfway through. Also, Diane Venora can't keep up with Whitaker, and the reasons why Chan loves him become less and less clear.
    Overall, you should see this film because of Whitaker, and if you like the music of the era, you're in for a real treat.
  • August 16, 2010
    an expertly crafted film. the direction and acting were flawless, and the music was obviously exceptional. my real criticism of the film lies in the choices made in the writing. it seems the film was dominated by parkers personal life rather than his music, and more balance wa... read mores probably appropriate, and even with the focus as presented there were a few major pieces of parkers life not included in the film that really should have been. overall, an incomplete look at bird despite the films lengthy running time, but what we were given was made with precision and the film was a joy to watch.
  • June 18, 2010
    A biopic on Charlie "Bird" Parker, Clint Eastwood crafts this film as a labor of love. His love for Jazz music is apparent with this film, and its a well told and acted biopic. Clint Eastwood has tremendous flair in telling a great story, and he tells Charlie Parker's story with ... read moreknowledge on the subject matter at hand. The film is dark and sad. Parker lived a sad life and this is what unfolds on the film. Bird is a terrific biopic on a tremendously talented musician. This is one of the best biopics I've seen seen. As a diehard fan of Heavy Metal and rock music, I thoroughly enjoyed something different such as a film about a Jazz musician. If you want a terrificbiopic on a tremendous musician, then Bird is for you.
  • November 22, 2006
    Couldn't get into it.
  • May 23, 2012
    I've always been talking about how sudden Clint Eastwood's jump from being a hardcore man's man with no name to a major, kind of sappy dramatic was, but really, I think that this film showed that his transformation was more steady than that, for although this is a drama about a b... read morelack musician hitting it big during hard times and going on to posthumously become an icon to the hipster subculture, but this is jazz we're talking about, and it doesn't get much flyer than that, cool cat. Well, maybe back in the late '80s, when we still had enough bleed over from the era of jazz to where saying something like "it doesn't get much flyer than that, cool cat" didn't sound lame; but eitherway, the point is that Eastwood was cool even when he was laming out a bit, which isn't to say that he's not still pretty awesome even now, because although he's in his 80s and seemingly very nice now, I'm still intimidated by the dude. Okay, maybe I should cut back a bit on talking about Eastwood, because the way I and too many other people who talk about this film are talking about Eastwood so much, you'd think that he's doing more than directing and producing, and is actually in the movie, in a fat suit and in blackface, playing the saxaphone, only his voice is so deep that even the sound produced by the sax is gruff and raspy; in fact, it doesn't even sound like a saxaphone, it just sounds like Eastwood groaning. Poor Forest Whitaker hasn't been getting the respect he deserves, which isn't to say that I'm going to forgive him for stealing top billing from James McAvoy in "The Last King of Scotland", seeing as how McAvoy was the actual main lead in that film, but I do still have to say that Whitaker needs some love, especially when you see how good he is in this film. He really gave me a lot of deep insight into the world of jazz, and now I feel like I should look more into the genre, because up until now, my closest thing to jazz had to have been Raphael Ravenscroft certain famous sax solo. It should tell you how white I am that my closest association to jazz sax was Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street", until I saw this Clint Eastwood film starring Forest Whitaker, who really isn't all that black to begin with. Well, I can certainly at least tell you that he's quite the acting talent, though he smooth moves aren't quite enough to drown the blues spawned from some unrealized potential with this film.

    The film opens jarringly plopping us in the middle of a key segment in Charlie Parker's life with no immediate development or, by extension, basis for immediate emotional investment. I love a good flashfoward opening, but that took much too long and was handled too sloppily, which isn't to say that the film didn't continue to get spotty with its handling of the flashbacks, for although major non-linear moments fall into place here and there, they're still jarring and dropped in at too unfitting of points, with a couple of segments of glaring inconsistencies in story focus and direction making it all the worse, thus leaving the film to throw off the audience and become convoluted. The reason why, outside of the aforementioned, seems to be that while the story jumps all over the place, it's hard to tell when it jumps exactly or even when it's doing something different, in general, as the film walks a straight line in storytelling, or at least until it loops back around. Much of the film is so very repetitive, as well as jumbled, and the sting of that all hurts worse when it's under the intensifying grip of consistent slowness that dulls the film down and leaves it to pump out steam faster than it was already doing when it simply had repetition, some story unevenness and convolution to worry about. Still, it all ultimately comes down to the film's lack of depth, for although Eastwood seems to be inspired enough to give the film weight, as I'll get into later, there's really never enough exposition or focus, let alone dynamicity in this study of such a fascinating spirit, even with its 160 minute runtime, making it both underwhelming as a character study and as a portrait of the late, great Charlie Parker. I suppose Clint Eastwood has never been a terribly great storyteller, and yet, outside of that aspect, he's a perfectly competent director, especially when he's inspired, and make no mistake, he is inspired with this film. Sure, that inspiration may be detrimental to the film, as it plagues the film with overambition, yet at the end of the day, this film wins you over in many ways, including style.

    Clint Eastwood seems to love that dark lighting, which is great and all, but this Jack N. Green fellow is certainly no Tom Stern when it comes making Eastwood's taste in style look as good as all get-out, as we can clearly see at the points where it's so dark that you really have no idea what's going on onscreen. Still, more often than not, Green delivers on handsome style and visual grace to capture the smooth but dramatically deep tone of the film, while the nifty production designs subtley but noticably capture the film's roaring time period and the fine sound design makes the classic tunes that much more boastful. Still, one of the biggest key players in livening up this world is, of course, Clint Eastwood, whose storytelling flaws remain the darkest, most potential-squandering faults in the film, yet he all but makes up for them with his accomplishments as director on a tonal level. Sure, the tone of the film is hardly diverse, yet if there is something good to come out of its consistency, then it's probably gonna have to consistent effectiveness, as the film, while not structured to have a lot of depth, still has much resonance and emotional impact pried from it by Eastwood, whose subtle and graceful touches of sobering resonance and meditation gives the film the deeply compelling weight needed to keep going and ultimately reward the viewers. Eastwood's compelling tone is certainly backed up by the performances, all of which are distinctive and compelling, with charisma and chemistry keeping the film anchored down to earth. Still, this is Forest Whitaker's show, and you better believe that he's not gonna let you forget it, conquering the screen with Charlie Parker's classic charisma and wit placed on such a transformative level that, after a while, Whitaker melts away and becomes Parker, complete with that engaging stature and presence. However, it wasn't all roses in the life of Yardbird, and Whitaker, realizing that, swiftly and awe-inspiringly champions emotional depth, incorporating human vulnerability and powerful emoting in his strong and charismatic presence in order to give us a truly subtle, yet palpable sense of a good man trapped by circumstance and his own mistakes, and whether he's compellingly portraying Parker's regrets or nailing the anguish found in Parker during his unbearable final days, Whitaker owns the screen with transformative profoundness that carries the picture.

    At the end of the show, such storytelling faults as occasional uneven focus and jarring non-linear shifts supplement steam loss intensified slowness, repetition and overall lack of detail in the somewhat tight-to-a-fault, yet lengthy story, yet with handsome style to engage the eyes and ears, as well as inspired tonal direction by Clint Eastwood and a long line of strong performances, headed by a charismatic, layered, emotional and ultimately rivetingly transformative Forest Whitaker, "Bird" soars on as an ultimately thoroughly enjoyable portrait on the life of the King of Bebop, even with its areas of unrealized potential.

    3/5 - Good
  • fb721890245
    September 20, 2007
    fb721890245
    A far superior performance by Forest Whitaker than his Oscar turn in the Last King of Scotland. If you haven't seen, see it! Not all the great jazz performers survived to a ripe old age.
  • September 19, 2008
    A film that will bring shame to melodramatic Eastwood attempts like Changeling,Million Dollar Baby and overall a brilliant biography of a prolific jazz musician.Moody,plunging in details and yet the culmination in so many viewpoints offers such a joy and pity at the same time,the... read more music is a sorrowful mourn to a past legend.
  • March 23, 2011
    Granted this movie moves slow (20 minutes under 3 hours) but Clint Eastwood again makes a dark and sad but terrific movie with great performances from Whitaker and Venora, it's a crime neither of them was nominated for an Oscar for their brilliant work.
  • November 19, 2007
    Forest Whitaker shines in the role of the great jazz saxaphonist Charlie Parker in this film; his genious and talent cannot prevail over his tragic descent into heroin addiction & mental illness. The talented Diane Verona ( Al Pacino's wife in Heat ) stars as well
  • May 9, 2007
    My favorite Clint Eastwood Directed movie, about Jazz Legend Charley Parker, and his degeneration unto death through drug abuse, Parker played by Forest Whitaker in one of the altime great roles in film period.

Critic Reviews


Variety Staff
March 26, 2009
Variety Staff, Variety

Sensitively acted, beautifully planned visually and dynamite musically, this is a dramatic telling of the troubled life of a revolutionary artist. Full Review

June 24, 2006
Time Out

At last American cinema has done black music proud. Unforgettable. Full Review

Janet Maslin
May 20, 2003
Janet Maslin, New York Times

Bird is less moving as a character study than it is as a tribute and as a labor of love. The portrait it offers, though hazy at times, is one Charlie Parker's admirers will recognize. Full Review

Desson Thomson
January 1, 2000
Desson Thomson, Washington Post

Whitaker sweats, vomits, blows and wails as the Bird (so named for hanging around jazz clubs like a yardbird), laying in some minor-key grace to Parker's self-destruction along the way. But he never l... Full Review

Hal Hinson
January 1, 2000
Hal Hinson, Washington Post

Even though, thematically, the movie won't come clear, Eastwood has succeeded so thoroughly in communicating his love of his subject, and there's such vitality in the performances, that we walk out el... Full Review

Roger Ebert
January 1, 2000
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Whitaker occupies this world as a large, friendly, sometimes taciturn man who tries to harm nobody and who cannot understand why the world would not let him play his music. Neither can we. Full Review

Urban Cinefile Critics
June 5, 2008
Urban Cinefile Critics, Urban Cinefile

The greatest strength of Clint Eastwood's bio-pic tribute to jazz saxophone great Charlie 'Bird' Parker, is its dark and haunting mood. Full Review

Brad Laidman
December 6, 2005
Brad Laidman, Film Threat

Eastwood shows a Parker that is haunted by his boyhood addiction, and shows off the innumerable people who loved his talent who were let down by him time and again. Full Review

Jeffrey M. Anderson
January 15, 2005
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid

Eastwood made the switch from Hollywood icon to great world director with his viciously underrated Bird. Full Review

Jake Euker
March 18, 2004
Jake Euker, F5 (Wichita, KS)

Overlong, and reeking of prestige.

View more Bird reviews

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