Rated R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.
Starring: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey
Written by: Mark Heyman/Andres Heinz/John McLaughlin
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
As of this writing, Black Swan is the best movie I have seen this year.
Really? You can’t be satisfied with that? FINE. The newest film from Darren Aronofsky is fucking wonderful, from the music, to the cinematography, to the script, to the acting, to the…to the…shit, to the fucking catering. If this doesn’t get either him or Natalie Portman some gold this awards season, then that’s just going to be a travesty. Seriously. Black Swan is amazing.
Portman stars as Nina Sayers, an uptight ballerina who lives under the eye of her overprotective and controlling mother (Barbara Hershey) a failed ballerina dancer herself. After years of toiling away at attaining “perfection”, an incident with company director Thomas LeRoy (Vincent Cassel) lands her the role of “The Swan Queen” in the upcoming production of Swan Lake. For Nina, this is a dream come true…until the pressure of the role causes her to slowly slip into insanity guided ever so helpfully by newcomer Lily (Mila Kunis), a ballerina from San Francisco who’s got all the natural talent Nina lacks and a darker side to her personality that both helps Nina open up…and also begin to self-destruct.
Natalie Portman completely kills it here. Her every movement, every line, keeps your eyes glued to the screen. She is absolutely perfect at playing the meek and fragile girl in the beginning, and her command of the role makes her transformation (complete with imagery of swans and talking paintings) out of that shell completely believable, even in the face of some crazy situations. I have never seen her as good in anything else as she was in this, period.
She’s got some good backup as well in the acting department. Vincent Cassel is perfect as the slimy theater director; he oozes the charm that makes you understand why girls would swoon for him, and at the same time he’s just dirty enough to make you cringe. Barbara Hershey as Nina’s insane mother is spot-on, managing to reign itself in whenever it starts getting a little too Mommie Dearest but still keeping its intensity and none of its over the top-ness. Mila Kunis as the seductive Lily…this is her best performance as well; I’ve never really been big on Kunis since her days on That 70′s Show but she shows some real talent here and the chance to do more than the “romantic interest”. Her little seductive schtick is a little reminiscent of last year’s Extract but not played for laughs. She manages to make you want her while at the same time not entirely trust her. Hell, evenWinona Ryder shows up and nails her brief role. Everyone is just damn good.
When Black Swan starts, you don’t know what you’re getting and it initally comes off like it’s going to be The Wrestler with ballerinas. And while it somewhat follows in that movie’s footsteps (you can feel similarities here and there), it’s something all its own; this is a character study with a psychological thriller thrown in for good measure. You never know exactly what’s real or what Nina is imagining when she starts to lose it and every thing she does in the last twenty minutes of the movie you’ll second guess. Did Nina and Lily just make out or did she imagine it? Did some girl just stab herself repeatedly in the face? You just can’t tell! Throw in all the character stuff (Nina is a really fascinating character from a psychological perspective) and you’ve got one hell of a mix.
And it’s beautiful. Ballet, although not my cup of tea, is beautiful to look at and Aronofsky captures it intimately in Black Swan. You feel like you’re right there as they practice, the moves are crisp and precise…but I’m not a ballet critic (or even really much of a film critic to be honest) so I’ll leave my thoughts at that. Everything else…it looks fucking great, what do you want me to say?
Is Black Swan better than The Wrestler? No way. But it’s still a goddamn brilliant movie. It’s interesting, it’s intense, it’s heartbreaking, it’s bloody, it’s sexy, and it’ll mess with your mind. Natalie Portman delivers the performance of her career here, and like I said earlier, should be getting a whole lot of statues come award season. The cast is great, it’s visually interesting, and the story takes twists and turns everything on its head at every point possible. It’s getting a wide release now, so don’t take my rant/review/okay it’s a rant for it; SEE THIS FUCKING MOVIE NOW.