Sunday, December 19, 2010

Movie Review: Black Swan

Saw Black Swan yesterday afternoon with a true blue dance critic (my wife the dance major and teacher). The film is directed by Aronofsky and stars Natalie Portman. The film was to portray the gritty life of ballerinas that is the true substance beneath the pretty exterior of ballet. The film is a character study, and the film has small clues and effects to get you thinking about the Swan Queen.

This is not a love letter to Ms. Portman, as she was good but not Meryl Streep. Portman has to perform, and does deliver a great performance as the perfection obsessed ballerina. Portman is a stereotype of the white swan, perfect little ballerina, but she has horrible issues in her head. Her mom, played by Barbara Hershey, is the stage mom living through Portman. The subtle hints here and there is that Portman is the result of a director-ballerina romance. Portman is the distilled product of the ballet and shows all of its grace and flaws. What type of dance would destroy the very bodies it seeks to showcase?

Portman's view is highly unreliable. Aronofsky uses small effects and sequences to show that Portman's "Nina" is an unreliable narrator. What do we make of Mila Kunis' "Lily" when nearly every moment with Lily on the screen, it is through Portman's eyes? Kunis' Lily is the bad girl ballerina that straight men daydream about, and is she truly that free spirited and bad or is it just Portman's mind and view that shows her being the 'bad girl'. Aronofsky uses special effects to really twist the viewers conception of what is going on here. I give Aronofsky credit, I did not know what direction this movie would go in nor if it would be revealed to be real or a huge delusion.

In my dancer wife's eyes, the movie did show a lot of the dirty little bits. The morning wake up snap crackle pop routine was a scene I have witnessed countless times. The little, petty cattiness was classic. We both enjoyed Portman's Nina character shouting at her domineering mom "You never made it out of the corps, I'm the SWAN QUEEN!" Wonderful moment spotlighting that intergenerational competition in sport-art families. Her biggest beef was with the final black swan dance sequence where the black swan did 5 fuetes instead of the required 32 fuetes of the black swan solo in Swan Lake.

There are entertaining moments in this flick, and there is rarely a dull moment. I did not look down at my watch, and was not bored. Enjoy Aronofsky's good direction, nice pacing and Portman's work as Nina. You will have plenty to talk about after the film.

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