Black Swan is a new film from director Darren Aronofsky, the man behind The Wrestler, The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream. Most of you might know the The Wrestler, the film behind Mickey Rourke’s comeback, but you people really into film will know of Aronofsky’s other work. And those who know his work are eagerly awaiting Black Swan.
Black Swan is a film that takes a hard look at competitive ballet and the intense steps and actions dancers take to make it in New York. In addition to this, Black Swan is also a psychological, suspense thriller about a woman losing her mind under the pressure of being perfect. Should they be two different movies and not one? Maybe.
Natalie Portman (Star Wars prequels, V for Vendetta) stars as Nina, a ballerina driven to perfection by herself and her mother (Barbara Hershey), a former dancer whose career didn’t take off. At first Nina is just a back up performer behind Winona Ryder, but when Thomas, the ballet troupe’s producer, decides they need a new show, Nina is picked as the Swan Queen. Thomas (played brilliantly by Vincent Cassel) is producing a re-imaging of Swan Lake and Nina will play both the White and Black Swans.
The pressure starts to build on Nina as her perfectionist habits make her a beautiful White Swan, but she lacks the sensual openness for the Black Swan. And when Lily (That 70′s Show’s Mila Kunis) arrives, Nina feels even more pressure as Lily is the better choice for the Black Swan and Thomas knows it. As the show nears closer to opening night, Nina’s madness increases and her paranoia starts to get the better of her. Thinking Lily is trying to steal her role as Swan Queen and that her mother treats her like a child, Nina spirals out and ultimately does what she thinks she needs to do to keep her role and be the perfect performer.
Black Swan is too well made to be bad. Natalie Portman gives a great performance and will surely receive Oscar buzz for it. Kunis is quite believable and Hershey plays a spot on ”Mom-ager”. It might have been two really good movies if seperated, one about competitive ballet and one about a perfectionist going insane, but Aronofsky paints a pretty picture even if the overall film is lacking, confusing or even weird for the sake of weird.
It’s sexual, thrilling, funny at times and somewhat captivating, but also odd and disturbing. The ballet scenes were beautifully shot and the tone and pacing added much to the film. Advertisements for it give some viewers an idea of the film that people who see the film will think differently of.
Like all Aronofsky films, you walk out of the theater unsure of quite a few things. There will be people who absolutely love the film. There will be people that hate it. It will be another film that people defend to the death and will go on many top 10 lists for 2010, but the general movie audience won’t love it. Many in attendance last night walked out with puzzling looks on their faces and the most popular description was “interesting”. Interesting is probably a good word to describe Black Swan, let’s go with that then.
Ken Murray also reviews for The Boston Movie Examiner, check out his reviews here.