Black Swan Directed by: Darren Aronofsky Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder Running Time: 1 hr 47 mins Rating: R Release Date: December 10, 2010 (limited)
PLOT: A ballet dancer (Portman) finally gets a big break with her company doing a production of "Swan Lake," but a rival (Kunis) may want her top spot.
WHO'S IT FOR? Do you like an uncomfortable lingering vibe that keeps you on edge (I do). Also, there will be nominations with this film, so add it to your list if you want to be in the know.
EXPECTATIONS: I couldn't say I was excited. I'm not really a fan of ballet, but director Aronofsky always brings something to the table. You can say the same for Portman.
ACTORS: Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers: Good lord. First, she's never done something so sheepish. You desperately want her to speak up. It makes her terribly vulnerable and you want to protect her just as much as you want her to stand up for herself. Nina gets lost in this world. You want her to shine, but you're afraid for once she does. The obvious weight loss is effectively scary. In addition to that, the dancing ability she showcases make this one of the best performances of the year. Score: 10
Mila Kunis as Lily: There is a difference in what her character does and what Lily thinks she does. This only adds to Kunis' performance. She makes an easy opposite to Nina. Lily joins the dance crew and it's as easy to say Lily is California and Nina is New York. With everything that Nina wants to control, Lily just wants to let loose. This adds to a lot of excitement once the two finally go out for a night. Score: 8
Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy: Thomas commands a presence as the director in charge of putting on "Swan Lake." It's almost comical how much the company worships him. He has the perfect amount of testosterone and smugness. Plus, even though you might not like his ways, he does know how to get the most out of Nina. Score: 8
Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers: I dislike Erica. I love Barbara's acting job. You can see life under the Sayers household might be a little rough to take. Erica's dreams didn't come true as a dancer. She plans and throws plenty of pressure on her daughter. The movie almost becomes a horror flick when we're stuck in that apartment. Score: 9
Winona Ryder as Beth Macintyre: Ryder just hasn't found her stride for me lately. Look, she hasn't had a leading role that has won me over for some time now. She used to be a bigger star, so having her play a has-been in the ballet world has to bring those issues to light. It's a little too much art imitating life. For the record, I thought she was out of play in Star Trek as well. Score: 5
TALKING: It's mainly simple. Nina is losing her grip while becoming a more competent dancer. She is even having trouble figuring out reality. Everyone talks to her like she's a child, and for the most part, she is. Score: 8
SIGHTS: You're watching ballet for quite a while, and it's not a problem at all. In fact, with Aronofsky behind the camera is a completely beautiful, engaging situation. The cutting, the picking and the hangnails are great for the discomfort they cause. There is one visual I didn't care for, but I'll wait and discuss that in plot spoilers. Score: 10
SOUNDS: My fellow film critic Eric D. Snider said it first, but I'll make sure he's not the last ... Clint Mansell's score blends perfectly with the original music with "Swan Lake." Mansell and Aronofsky have worked together before, but this is my favorite. Score: 9
BEST SCENE: Look, Portman and Kunis in a bed together having fun is one answer. But mine is Nina dancing the "Black Swan" when the energy and emotion are both running very high.
ENDING: I don't think it's open to interpretation, it's the perfect ending.
QUESTIONS: Is it just me, or do the special effects used to misshape Portman's legs during one transformation scene in her bedroom totally take you out of the moment?
REWATCHABILITY: I will make sure to watch this film again in the near future. Especially because I think it has some of my personal award winners in it.
From the director of Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler comes Black Swan. I'm not just repeating a line from the ads for this film. It really is the perfect blend of those two films. Black Swan is creepy and beautiful.
It really is the perfect role for Portman. Her entire career up until this point could be described as "adult." Her first two major roles in The Professional and Beautiful Girls showcased a little girl well beyond her years in maturity. It's shocking to see Portman act this way. It's her most immature character to date and it's so well done.
Beauty, grace and the insane (in a good way) mind of Darren Aronofsky make Black Swan a hypnotically addictive film.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10