The Black Swan delves into the cutthroat world of ballet—exposing its dark underbelly while showing the demise of a ballerina's mind.
Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballet dancer who lands the ‘role of a lifetime’ as the Swan Queen in her New York City dance company’s production of Swan Lake.
Now that she’s got the coveted role, the pressure has only just begun for the fragile Nina. The production director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel), is driving her. He’s sure she can perform the White Swan, but pushes her to become a seductress as the Black Swan. As she’s struggling and working hard to gain his approval, he’s degrading her while also putting on the moves. The pressure to be perfect nags at her. Then, Lily (Mila Kunis) joins the company. Now, Nina has a competitor trying to befriend her in an environment where everyone is ready for the chance to replace her.
This movie attempts to overthrow you mentally. Always intense and shot in first person perspective to put you into Nina’s head, be ready for jostling camera angles (a la Blair Witch Project). As you acclimate, you become Nina on the path to mental breakdown, absorbing her illness, schizophrenia or whatever ails her. You accompany her to the toilet to puke, to her weigh-ins (where the already thin dancer is pleased to have slimmed down), on her grueling rehearsals to witness Thomas humiliate her in front of her peers. Portman is exceptional in her depiction of the emotionally brittle Nina. Hershey delivers as her smothering mother, herself a former ballerina living her failed dreams through her “sweet girl.” Winona Ryder’s Beth, the replaced “old” ballerina is well played, but unintentionally funny. I couldn’t shake the Heathers melodrama flashbacks in a few of Ryder’s scenes. Her acting is so over the top, it’s darkly comedic (be warned though, she has one scene that while over-the-top is extremely disturbing). I like Kunis but is she worthy of best supporting actress nominations? She acts the same as she did in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and toned down from her role in That ‘70s Show but she doesn’t possess range. Compared to Nina, her character isn’t believable—an accomplished ballerina who desires the starring role but eats burgers, stays out clubbing and pops Ecstasy the night before a day of arduous rehearsal. (Admittedly, it’s difficult to know what is happening versus what is imagined, but it left me dubious.) And, for a movie about ballet, there’s little dancing.
You must see this psychological thriller because like it or not, it will rattle you. If you feel nothing, you will simply add this to a string of events that don’t impact you and people will silently pity you.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Run time: 106 minutes
2 days ago