"Black Swan" Movie Review (2010)

12/09/2010 Posted by Admin

"Black Swan"

Movie Review

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, written by Mark Heyman, Andrew Heinz and John McLaughlin, 108 minutes, rated R.

By Christopher Smith

It’s just like director Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler,” “Requiem for a Dream,” “Pi”) to follow a movie about a down-on-his-luck wrestler with a thriller about the tumultuous world of prima ballerinas.

Who’s tougher? After watching this movie, I’m Team Ballerina. Randy “The Ram” Robinson has nothing on this gaggle of twirling tutus.

Given the weight of Aronofsky’s talent, it’s also just like the director to be generating Oscar buzz for this movie, which is so hyped up with melodrama and freakish occurrences, you’d swear somebody here popped one mother of a hallucinogenic mushroom before filming began.

And maybe they did, because when Tchaikovsky’s ballet, “Swan Lake,” is set to be performed at New York City’s Lincoln Center, the lead dancer, Nina (Natalie Portman), starts to have one thunderous break-down that leads to all sorts of weirdness, such as a scene in which she pulls a feather from her skin. Or others that involve her image — and how it reflects its own personality — in mirrors.

But such is the world in which Nina moves. Fraught with stress, she lives at home with a demanding mother who will remind plenty of Carrie’s mother in Stephen King’s “Carrie.” Barbara Hershey plays her with a beautifully cutting, loving edge — what she mines in Erica is something controlled and scary, a former ballerina herself who now is living vicariously through her daughter, who she lifts up and puts down with a devil’s ease.

Also here to cause trouble is the sloppy, drunken former ballerina Beth (Winona Ryder, boozed to the gills and ready to take swings at whatever moves). Beth was up for the part Nina won, but when the show’s artistic director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel), “retires” his little princess from dance, well, let’s just say it gets messy. The same proves true for the relationship Nina forms with Lily (Mila Kunis), who was flown in from San Francisco to join the company — and who will do anything to land Nina’s part, including crippling her with a night of dance and drugs the day before a critical practice.

For Nina, the trouble is that she has been sheltered her whole life — even in her mid-twenties, her pink bedroom with the cute curtains and stuffed toys might as well belong to a virginal young girl.

Because of all of this, she only is able to tap into the purity of the White Swan. The Black Swan is too dark for her to go near. She wrestles with it. Thomas wrestles with it. And while Lily waits on the sidelines for her chance to steal the role from Nina, odd things start to happen. Nina begins to hallucinate and fall apart. Darkness begins to creep in and with it comes the Black Swan, who takes root in Nina’s soul and allows her to spread her wings fully at center stage. But at what cost?

“Black Swan” is engrossing and exciting — it might seem otherwise, but only a trace of the plot has been explored here. Portman, a former ballerina herself, worked 10 months behind the scenes to prepare herself for the grueling role, which turns out to be the best she has delivered. An Academy Award nomination is certain to ensue — it has to.

But beyond Portman, everyone here is strong, and Aronofsky’s vision once again finds something new within the old. You’ve never seen a movie quite like “Black Swan” before. It’s brazen, it’s ridiculous, it’s magnificent, it’s human, it’s unique, it’s the world at its worst, it’s the worst at its best — and this is why it’s so weirdly compelling. Often, you watch “Black Swan” with repulsion and admiration at the same time. Think that’s easy? It isn’t. But Aronofsky achieves it and this is one of the reasons his movie will be nominated for an Academy Award.

Grade: A-

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