Saturday, January 8, 2011

Black Swan

Black Swan attempts to test my love for Natalie Portman against my wariness of movies directed by Darren Aronofsky. Funny enough, that is exactly what I’m left with … maybe the best performance of Portman’s career inside a movie that wasn’t equal to her work.

Natalie Portman is literally in every single scene of Black Swan. The entire movie is told through Nina Sayers’ eyes and more importantly her brain. When she starts losing her sanity, we see her delusions and manifestations of paranoia. Nina slowly cracks right in front of our eyes. Portman is believable at every single point of the film. The stunted adolescence she starts with all the way to her darker nature taking over are all delivered to perfection. Although this is Natalie Portman’s movie, there are other actors to be congratulated. Mila Kunis continues her confusing rise as a movie actress. I guess at this point I’m going to have to accept it and move on. She delivers the best performance of her career as the free spirit ballerina that is at the center of Nina’s paranoia. If there is one thing I know about high level professional dancing, the director is always a prick of the highest order. Black Swan got the casting right with Vincent Cassel as he just oozes douchebag without ever becoming a caricature. Nina’s mother is Barbara Hershey and she just may have been the most disturbing character in the whole movie. She is just about the worst possible stage parent. And in a fun bit of casting, Winona Ryder is the prima ballerina that Natalie Portman is replacing. She was crazed in every one of her scenes, so that’s always amusing.

I began this review by saying that I have wishy washy feelings towards Darren Aronofsky’s and Black Swan did not quell these feelings. This is a great movie but in the end I felt manipulated. Since this a story about a character trying to figure out what is real and what is fantasy, I was expecting a few twists along the way. The problem is that the big reveal at the end felt like a cheat. Its not on a level of Fight Club where I refuse to buy the twist, but it did stop me cold as my brain threw up a bunch of red flags. Even with my reservations, Black Swan is a beautifully filmed venture into paranoia. All the usual tricks are on display; stuff happening in the shadows, odd sounds, disturbing reflections, hallucinated lesbian trysts ... wait what?! So I knew Portman and Kunis made out because all the trailers included it as the highlighted selling point but it went so much further than that. I always assumed her stripping scene in Closer would be the dirtiest of her career, but Black Swan put that movie to shame. *Thinks about it* I have no complaints on that topic. Back to Aronofsky, this was all solid psychological thriller tricks and treats but the bait and switch during the actual performance of Swan Lake still pisses me off. Boo!

Black Swan is a worthwhile movie based completely on the work done by Natalie Portman. Without her, I would have a much less high opinion of the film. But there she is and that's all that really matters.

8 out of 10

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