Black Swan: Review!

27 Dec

I have to admit right up front that I did not really want to see this movie.  I primarily went because I enjoy Darren Aronofsky’s films and expected something really good from him.  My lack of excitement for the film affected me until about halfway through at which point I got hooked and stopped worrying about the stew I was cooking at home.

The film follows Nina Sayers (awfully close to my last name… but played by Natalie Portman) who has worked at a ballet studio for four years until she is finally offered the biggest role of her career as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake.  Along the way she has to compete for control of her life over her mother (played by Barbara Hershey) as a new dancer comes to the studio (Lily played by Mila Kunis) who, under Nina’s suspicion, is gunning for her part.  The problem throughout the film for Nina is that she is more of a technical dancer (required for the White Swan) and lacks the romance and expressive freedom required for the part of the Black Swan which overwhelms her with stress.

For those of you who were seemingly mindfucked by Inception earlier in the year, I suggest that you see this film.  Despite this being a mere 30 minutes after returning from the movie theater, I can already tell that I’m going to be thinking about it over the next few days.   The entire third act of the film comes at you in a frenzied fever dream.  Like The Wrestler, the alleged companion piece by Aronofsky, the film ends suddenly but on a powerful note with the audience not quite sure what happened.  While The Wrestler was a little more safe in terms of an Aronofsky film, Black Swan returns the director to many of his stylistic techniques found in some of his earlier work.  He’s unafraid to pull punches, and it really makes me think about how the next Wolverine movie is going to play out since it was announced a couple of months ago that he would be directing.

I digress. 

Out of all of the performances, I particularly enjoyed Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy the director of the performance.  It’s a part that is seemingly one dimensional, but he instills it with much power.  Despite his character being a seemingly creepy dick, I somehow found myself sympathizing for him and his artistic vision.

On the other hand, we have Natalie Portman’s convoluted performance.  At times I loved it, and at other times I found myself questioning it.  Like the film, she always keeps the viewer guessing at what is going on inside her head.  For that, that is a powerful triumph in acting.  On the other hand, she often has the same look on her face of mild terror and always on the verge of a breakdown that, at first, I sympathized with, but, by the one millionth frame of the movie, I grew quite tired of it.  Since she carries most of the weight of the film (like her character carries the weight of the ballet performance), I found it difficult to ignore the minor cracks and occasional monotonous emotion.

The whole ensemble cast did a terrific job altogether and every role seemed to booster the profile characters, and I was very surprised out how well trained the primary actors were with the dancing.  Lily was of particular interest because it required Mila Kunis to do some very difficult acting.  Not only did she have to play her regular role but also Nina’s imagination of her which was fairly compelling.  Nevertheless, she sometimes came off as a little flat.  Barbara Hershey’s performance as Nina’s mother (Erica Sayers) was fairly surprising because it at first seemed like a one dimensional role and, like Vincent Cassel’s Thomas, yet she instills something powerful into the character.

Overall, the film was powerful and carried its weight.  It even converted me into enjoying it when I, at first, felt more like my viewing was a chore for the Oscars.

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