Plot: The story of a ballet troupe preparing to put on a production of Swan Lake with the same dancer playing both the white and black swan. Once Nina (Natalie Portman) gets the role as Swan Queen, the pressure of playing both roles begins to consume her as she is also threatened by another dancer (Mila Kunis) taking her place.
Hey, it’s time for another Darren Aronofsky (the Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) movie. What does that mean? Well, we are going to see people go crazy, uncomfortable mutilation to the body, depressing storylines, and above all else, a great movie. Aronofsky is one of my favorite directors out there right now, and Black Swan is another reason why. The man takes you through an experience. Within the first five minutes, you are already cringing and can feel what type of film you are going to see. But Black Swan wouldn’t work if you didn’t have the right actress to carry it on its shoulders and Natalie Portman is that actress.
Portman plays Nina, a very driven dancer but a real sweet heart. Her dancing is perfect and so refined that it actually pisses off her instructor, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), as he asks her to make the transformation to the more free and seductive Black Swan. Nina shows very subtle signs of a fiery character which is why she is given the role. The real crux of the movie is Leroy trying to unlock her dark side and destroy the sweet Nina. Watching Portman battle with both personalities is pretty intense as the sweet Nina is slowly broken down and driven crazy trying to play the Black Swan. Her performance is stunning; there is nothing else to say. It’s also interesting to watch from Nina’s mother’s (Barbara Hershey) point of view as she was once a dancer herself, so she recognizes all the crap Nina is going through and almost knows what’s going to happen before it does.
The movie really gets interesting though when Lily (Mila Kunis) comes into the picture. She is Nina’s exact opposite, the Black Swan to her white. In the second half, it really becomes her who’s trying to corrupt Nina. Lily is a great character because she symbolizes the intense and crazy competition that is professional ballet with manipulative subtly. Kunis is fantastic and keeps up with Portman’s acting every step of the way.
One thing that annoyed me a lot in Black Swan were these very explicit hallucinations and visions that showcase Nina’s madness. Now sometimes they were okay and very gorgeous to look at, but a lot of the times they are too jumbled and go on for too long. I also hate when there’s a very long scene and five minutes later we have to question whether or not it was real. Kind of seems like a waste of time. I always prefer more subtly when showing a character descending into madness, although the images did fit well with the really intense score.
This is really a great film with superb acting all around. The ending is also perfect. It’s a great transition into the credits. I don’t like this effort as much as I did Aronofsky’s last film (The Wrestler), but there’s no question this is another fine addition to his already great resume.
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)