Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
Director: Darren Aronofsky
20th Century Fox / Fox Searchlight
Rated R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use
Black Swan, director Darren Aronofsky’s latest journey into the deepest recesses of the human mind, joins his already impressive pedigree of films, and proves to be one of his finest achievements. Having been in development for a decade, Black Swan was a truly a labor of love for Aronofsky, and the results show it. Black Swan was praised heavily during the recent awards season, garnering multiple nominations for directing and producing. Of course, the real praise was showered on Natalie Portman for her portrayal of a ballerina on a dangerous and deadly downward spiral into insanity. She won Best Actress at both the Academy and Golden Globe Awards. Black Swan is an amazing film featuring brilliant acting, provocative cinematography, and a memorable musical score that will stick with you for days after watching. Black Swan is now available on VUDU to own, or rent in SD, HD, and HDX one month before it is available on Netflix.
In Black Swan, Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayers, a ballet dancer who is hoping to finally take the spotlight in her company’s next ballet production. When their director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel) announces they will perform “Swan Lake”, Nina believes she can take the lead role of the Swan Queen. Thomas believes her performance as the White Swan is perfect, but that she is too rigid and too strict on technique to let go to play the Black Swan. At the same time, a new ballerina, Lily (Mila Kunis), joins the company whom Nina identifies as a rival. Even though she wins the part of Swan Queen, she begins experiencing delusions and hallucinations. She becomes obsessed with perfection and becomes jealous as she feels Thomas will replace her with Lily. As her rivalry with Lily intensifies, Nina descends deeply into madness. With the premiere of “Swan Lake” quickly arriving, Nina fears she will lose her role and her mind.
Natalie Portman’s performance as ballerina Nina Sayers is nothing short of brilliant. Her portrayal of a descent into madness and obsession is hauntingly disturbing yet at the same time mesmerizingly beautiful. The acting in whole in this movie is quite captivating. Vincent Cassel again proves he is sorely underused in American cinema, as his George Balanchine-esque performance as Thomas is truly riveting. The intensity and control he brings to the film creates dense tension to an already gripping film. Mila Kunis, as well, will turn heads with her performance. On paper, she seems to be a poor casting choice, being mostly known for her comedic work in “That 70s Show” and “Family Guy”. However, she transcends her typecasting and gives a performance that will hopefully allow her to continue to pursue dramatic roles.
There have been some who decried the film’s use of CGI as unnecessary and distracting, but in the opinion of this reviewer, the CGI only enhances the experience of Nina’s journey to insanity. As she delves deeper and deeper into the ballet and the dual characters she plays, the CGI allows us to see what she sees—everything from the goosebump-like skin on her body to the feathers she “grows.” Darren Aronofsky is the kind of director who never does something unless there is a reason. He often is quoted as saying that he only uses CGI as a last resort, and only when in-camera effects are not possible. Aronofsky has proven himself a skilled director with immense talent. Black Swan continues his streak of critically acclaimed films. When you’re done with Black Swan, do yourself a favor and check out his other great films Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Wrestler.
DID YOU KNOW?
Before Winona Ryder was cast as Beth, other actresses considered for the role include previous Aronofsky collaborators Rachel Weisz and Jennifer Connelly.