The Black Swan
In the last couple of years there have been a few movies released that Lauren and I have greatly anticipated, Antichrist is a prime example, only to loose interest as soon as they are released. Usually it is something we, at least I, feel like we are supposed to see and, as young intelligent people, enjoy. Black Swan was quickly becoming one of those movies but I pulled the trigger and saw it by myself at an eleven o'clock show. The first showing of the day is always my favorite, my second favorite is the last. I love an impromptu late movie.
I'm glad I went because seeing it on the big screen was definitely worth it.
Natalie Portman plays Nina, a ballerina finally getting her break as the Swan Queen in a production of Swan Lake. Nina is a technically adept dancer but lacks feeling. Portman plays her very rigid for most of the movie, almost to the point of wooden. The superficial plot of the movie involves Nina trying to get in touch with her sensual side in order to properly dance the Black Swan scenes as she has already mastered the scenes for the White Swan. I'm not sure to what extent a body double was used but most of the dancing appeared to have been done by Portman. She is mesmerizing in these scenes and owns the screen in ways she never has before.
Vincent Cassel plays the director of the production with his patented mixture of sleaze and austerity. He attempts to coax Nina into becoming "free" by forcing himself on her and giving her homework assignments like, "go home and touch yourself." This role could have easily gone two dimensional but Cassel plays it with so much personality. As Nina sinks into her role, her mental state begins to weaken and fracture. Her mother, played with dexterous severity by Barbara Hershey, is no help to her. She acts as a torrid force in her life pushing her forward and holding her back at the same time. The pressure from her mother at home nearly equals the pressure put on her by the director and the production. She begins to crack further when another dancer, Mila Kunis (bearable for the first time ever), inserts herself into her life. Nina sees in her, sometimes literally, the aspects of the Swan Queen role that she cannot seem to master.
Even from the trailer you can tell that there are a number of motifs throughout the film color, dual identity, but chief among them is Nina's physical transformation into a literal swan. I wasn't sure how that was going to play going into the movie since you see her pull a feather from her skin in the trailer but Darren Aronofsky really did something amazing with it at the end.
Speaking of the end, Black Swan has one of the best endings of a film in 2010. The performance of the ballet is exquisitely shot and Natalie Portman is mesmerizing. It does get a little too mind fuck-y but I thought it was great. So many movies give you the build up and just let the third act go to hell. They're like sneezes where you can feel it coming and coming and then you loose it. But of course, you still need to sneeze. The Black Swan has a great sneeze.
The only part of the movie I didn't care for was Winona Ryder as an older dancer forced into retirement. The entire role seemed unnecessary. I only mention it because I desperately want Winona Ryder to be good for some reason. Maybe it's because she was in Lucas.