Movie review: Black Swan
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama, Psychological Thriller
Opens locally Friday, December 10th, 2010, Rated R (currently playing at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak)
Run Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey
Directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream)
Black Swan is a dark, psychological thriller set in the seemingly light and beautiful world of ballet. There is much buzz surrounding the movie as we near award season, much of it deserved for the terrific performances by Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and Barbara Hershey. The movie itself however, may be a bit fantastical, a bit too confusing for a wide audience. It is a visually compelling movie who's parts are more interesting than the whole.
Plot. Nina (Portman) is a ballerina in a New York ballet company, who is completely consumed with her profession. Her director Tom Leroy (Cassel) decides to replace the lead in their new production of Swan Lake, and Nina is his first choice. A new up-and-coming dancer, Lily (Kunis), has also impressed the director and seeks Nina's role. You see, the lead in Swan Lake needs to possess the grace and elegance to play the White Swan, but also must be able to show a darker side...the sinful sensuality of the Black Swan. Currently Nina is a terrific White Swan. The movie centers on Nina's transformation and journey into the darkness of the soul, as she tries to encompass the qualities of the Black Swan.
Art & Suffering. Like in director Aronofsky's other movies, we see a very harsh side to the struggling artist. In The Wrestler, we witnessed the pain and suffering needed to achieve success, and the same themes are prevalent in Black Swan. We go on a visual journey into hell along with Nina as she transforms. Woven throughout the movie is also her relationship with her mother (Hershey), and the new dancer Lily. It's the kind of movie that keeps you guessing as to what is real, and what may be a fantasy in the mind of Nina.
Natalie Portman is as good as she ever has been, a role worthy of much praise in the coming months. I loved to see Mila Kunis in this dark, dramatic role as well, known prior to this for her mainly comedic spins in That 70s Show, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and as the voice of Meg on Family Guy. There is a much-talked-about sex scene between the two of them in the movie...not very gratuitous yet not completely necessary to the plot either. We know that Nina is mentally unstable, and there are many ways to portray her downward spiral...not that I'm complaining about the scene, mind you.
Though not as effective as The Wrestler in creating sympathy for the characters, Black Swan is a very interesting look at what it takes to commit to a role. It's as much about being a ballerina as The Wrestler was about being a wrestler. It is a dark and complex movie that at times, I wasn't really sure what I was watching, yet I couldn't take my eyes off of the screen. Apparently art cannot exist without suffering. One would just like a small bit of entertainment value peppered in as well...a reason why we should care about Nina. The movie spends so much time delving into her mind, that we never really get to see Nina's starting point...the innocent White Swan. This would have been helpful in making us see what she had to lose...what was at stake...in becoming the Black Swan.
So is it worth seeing? I think so, if for nothing else, to see Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis's amazing performances. Just don't expect it to transform you.
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