Black Swan


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Rating: R

Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers
Mila Kunis as Lily
Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy
Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers
Winona Ryder as Beth Macintyre
Benjamin Millepied as David
Ksenia Solo as Veronica
Kristina Anapau as Galina
Janet Montgomery as Madeline
Sebastian Stan as Andrew
Toby Hemingway as Tom
Sergio Torrado as Sergio

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Special Features:
Metamorphosis: A Behind-The-Scenes Documentary with Darren Aronofsky

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.40:1)
5.1 Dolby Digital Sound
Spanish and French Language
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 108 Minutes

The following is the official description of the film:

“‘You can’t tear your eyes away’ (Entertainment Weekly) from this ‘wicked, psychosexual thriller’ (Daily Variety) starring Academy Award winner Natalie Portman and directed by Darren Aronofsky (‘The Wrestler’).Portman delivers ‘the performance of her career’ (Vanity Fair) as Nina, a stunningly talented but dangerously unstable ballerina on the verge of stardom. Pushed to the breaking point by her driven artistic director (Vincent Cassel) and the threat posed by a seductive rival dancer (Mila Kunis), Nina’s tenuous grip on reality starts to slip away – plunging her into a waking nightmare.”

“Black Swan” is rated R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.

This is probably one of those reviews that I’ll get flamed for in the comments section, but here goes anyway.

I thought “Black Swan” was a technically well-made film. The cinematography, sets, costumes, and visual effects were all excellent. The performances were also excellent. In fact I voted for Natalie Portman as Best Actress in the Houston Film Critics Society awards. But the story itself, while interesting and haunting, wasn’t one I’d want to revisit again and again. I watched “Black Swan” once and that was enough. It was a weird Jekyll and Hyde story that was pretty trippy, but it didn’t live up to the hype that it generated. I gave it a 6 out of 10 based on entertainment value alone. That’s still a positive review, but not as glowing as Ed Douglas’ 9 out of 10 he gave it upon its theatrical release.

The most notable thing about “Black Swan” is Natalie Portman’s performance. She’s had a career filled with great performances (“The Professional”) and no-so-great performances (“Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”). Here Portman is at the top of her game. She perfectly portrays Nina’s conflicted state. She desperately wants to excel at ballet, but she won’t compromise her morals to get ahead. She’s pushed and psychologically tortured by her mother to succeed in ballet, but when she does she’s hated and harassed by the other dancers. All of this leads to her having hallucinations and seeing another darker version of herself, i.e. the Black Swan. As the story progresses, you start wondering if she’s going crazy or if some dark, supernatural power is torturing her. The viewer, like Nina, starts questioning reality. Portman ended up winning the Oscar for her performance and it was well deserved.

There’s so much focus on Portman that would be easy to forget the rest of the cast, but they did excellent jobs as well. Mila Kunis is memorable as Lily. Is she truly Nina’s friend? Or is she simply trying to set her up to fail so she can take her place? Even by the end of the film you don’t know the answer to that. Vincent Cassel is also good as Thomas Leroy, the head of the ballet company. He’s your stereotypical slimy man using his position of power to manipulate the girls in the ballet company. But as Nina resists his advances, he’s more drawn to her. Underneath his game, he still seems to respect her as a dancer. It’s a weird, complex relationship, but at the end of the day it’s still sexual harassment. Then there’s Winona Ryder as Beth Macintyre, the former star of the company. She’s washed up, bitter, and cast aside by Thomas. She’s also a reflection of what Nina might become one day. It’s a good role for Ryder and it shows she’s still a strong actress despite not being in the spotlight as much anymore. Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers is also noteworthy as the passive aggressive stage mom of Nina. She’s super-nice one minute, super-evil the next. I think only at the end does she realize how far she’s pushed her daughter.

Overall “Black Swan” is a dark, weird, twisted movie, especially in the effects-filled finale. But I think it got more hype from the much discussed sex scene between Nina and Lily than anything else. Despite all of the awards and hype, this is not a movie for everybody. Anybody that has seen any film by Darren Aronofsky will know that. Unless you like independent films or more artsy movie fare, you should probably pass on “Black Swan.’

You’ll only find one bonus feature on the DVD. It’s a ‘making of’ documentary. The behind the scenes footage really gives you a feel that you’re there with the crew as the movie is being made. And while the actors are all interviewed, the stars of this documentary are the crew. They spend a lot of time talking with the set decorators, cinematographers, choreographers, visual effects coordinators, and others. It’s one of the better ‘making of’ documentaries I’ve seen this year.