Saturday, January 8, 2011

Movie Review: Black Swan

Release Date: December 3, 2010 (limited; wide: Dec. 17) 
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures 
Director: Darren Aronofsky 
Screenwriter: Mark Heyman, John McLaughlin 
Starring: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder 
Genre: Psychological Thriller 
MPAA Rating: R (for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use) 
Official Website: 

The Dark And Twisted Plot
It’s a tale where dreams become nightmares, hopes into obsessions, and artistry dissolves into sexual confusion…and no one goes home happy.  Nina, a ballerina who lives with her retired ballerina mother, fulfills her deepest desires and lands the leading role in Swan Lake.  But this joyous moment doesn’t come without its dark side.  Swan Lake Director Thomas Leroy begins playing some very serious mind games with his new leading dancer and shows some hidden and perverse desires towards her.  Things only go from bad to worse as Nina deals with extreme and violent delusions of a dark alter ego who seems to take control of Nina at random moments.  But the question is, what’s better for Nina, her naturally happy yet timid side, or the hidden gothic, more aggressive side?

My Bright And Chipper Thoughts
For those of you who know about the famous ballet, Swan Lake, you know it takes the idea of fairy tales back to their origins; making them out to be stories of a twisted and dark nature, typically stemming from the wants and fears of human beings.  Through the years, they have been fabricated into moralistic tales to read to our children, which is far from the original intention of these fantastic and other-worldly pieces of fiction.  Black Swan brings us back to a time when fairy tales were terrifying stories that show what human nature is truly like.

As the reviews run rampant, talking about the fear Nina has over loosing her leading role to another upcoming and aspiring dancer, the reviewers would like you to believe the film’s focus is about how Nina obsesses over maintaining her position in the spotlight.  While this is very much a crucial aspect of the story, a deeper theme in the film’s over development is where the story’s heart lies.  Growing up with a mother who hopes to live her “failed” career as a ballerina through her daughter’s success, Nina has developed a very skewed sense of reality.  As an audience member, you’ll be just as confused as Nina as she toggles back and forth from her delusions to reality.  Nina struggles more with herself rather than with her surrounding peers through the bulk of the film, constantly worried about her status on stage, her relationship with the director, the constant images of scratching and cutting herself, and the consistent sexual confusion that plagues Nina’s mind. 

Now don’t be fooled, the plot isn’t all that difficult to figure out.  Considering her upbringing and the lifestyle she chose, it’s not that hard to determine what the outcome will be.  Will she succumb to the temptations around her?  Will she transcend the hard lifestyle she’s had to endure with her mother?  Will she hold onto her self respect and tell her director to not put his hand on her?  Well….Will she???

No…this isn’t that type of movie.  There is no happy ending.  There is no down-on-his-luck football player whose life is changed with the help of an upper class white woman.  There is no knight in shinning blue-skinned-avatar-suit to swoop in and save the day.  There is no small town outsider coming to a town filled with uppity rich families whose lives are changed by the inspiration provided by the outsider.  No ladies and gentlemen, like I stated above, This is a true fairy tale where nothing ends positively, and no one learns anything.

 If you’re familiar with this type of story, it won’t take you long to decipher the film’s inevitable conclusion, but the process the story goes through in uncovering the ending is a thrill ride in and of itself.  With a predictable storyline comes along with it an intelligent film making process, mainly focused around the artistry and glamour of the film. 

This psychological thriller, with all of its darkness and dementia, takes on a new meaning of cinematic beauty.  Even during its most gruesome moments, Black Swan is a spectacle that will keep your eyes glued to the screen.  You’re brain will be torn between telling you to “look away, it’s too much” and “don’t cover your eyes, this is gorgeous!”  It’s startling to see at first, but most of the “thrilling” scenes are tolerable to watch.  It’s mostly the mere thought of what Nina does to herself that will get your heart pumping and cause you to clench the arms of your chair.  And the final dance sequence will terrify and amaze you to the point of no return!

Black Swan does take some major risks though; it’s serious yet silly, absurd yet incredibly artistic, engaging yet completely ridiculous.  So much goes on in the film that, towards the end, you’ll wonder if you’re actually enjoying the movie, or hating it.  And I’ll bet you a million dollars that moment of questioning will occur during a scene where some of Nina’s ligaments begin to…well…take on an entirely different shape.  Don’t be scared, just be READY for it.

The cast is perfect!  Natalie Portman delivered a performance unlike any before.  Sure, she still acts like Natalie Portman, but without a doubt this has to be one of the best performances by any actress or actor of 2010.  But let us not forget about our esteemed “That 70’s Show” bitchy girl, Mila Kunis, who’s finally broken free from the burden of her TV sitcom character and blossomed into an incredible actress.  Vincent Cassel is really good at making you hate him, as well as Barbara Hershey who is amazing at playing a mother who can’t seem to let go of reliving the glory days.  But my greatest joy, casting wise, is simply seeing Winona Ryder back on the big screen.  She’s always had a knack for landing roles in films that appeal to my love of gothic tales.
There’s no real way to express just how incredible Black Swan is…you’ll just have to go see it.  No doubt that this film is only for a certain type of movie goer.  You aren’t going to walk out of that theater feeling great about life, so don’t go if you’re not in the mood for a negative storyline.  However, if you don’t walk away from the movie left in a state of awe due to the impact of the visual rhetoric, I might question you’re artistic nature.  In any case, I recommend this film to everyone…Even if you don’t think you can handle it.

10 out of 10

No comments:

Post a Comment