Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and Vincent Cassel
Directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler)
Rated R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use
Appropriate for ages 17+
Nina (Portman) is a ballerina for the New York City ballet company who is given the opportunity to replace their prima ballerina for their season opener – Swan Lake. While Nina is perfect for the White Swan due to her innocence and grace, she struggles to become the much darker Black Swan. When she befriends a new dancer (Kunis), she gets in touch with her darker side, allowing her to perform at a higher level that sends her down a sinister path as well.
There is a lot to like about this troubled artist picture, but it walks a very fine line (almost too fine) between a dramatic thriller and the macabre. There is the part of the film that allows the audience to root for the ballet dancer struggling with her suffocating mother and lack of confidence and then there is a the part of the film that horrifies like a nightmare. Many will find this very disconcerting, but others will consider it borderline genius. I definitely see the genius at work and respect both director Aronofsky and the writers for their brave, almost experimental movie.
The actors here are all in rare form and while I like many of Portman’s films, I can’t think of a better performance from her. Her arc is so dramatic, yet so believable that by the ending you are left out of breath and deeply disturbed. Kunis and Cassel also turn in stellar supporting performances that both guide you through Nina’s dark journey, but confound you as well as their seemingly alternate agendas collide.
And then there is the production that deserves maybe the highest praise of all. The sets, make-up and choreography, as well as the stunning cinematography all provide a realistic-looking and exciting view of Nina’s world, as if her eyes were ours – all backed up by the beautifully haunting score by Clint Mansell that incorporates just enough of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake to provide a dark and emotional experience for the listener as well as the viewer.
This is by no means just a film for ballet lovers and should especially be kept out of view of young girls that think they might be interested in the subject matter. The lesbian themes of the movie will throw many audiences off due to not only their shocking nature but their overall place in the movie. While the film shows no nudity, it is highly sexual and at times extremely uncomfortable to watch. After all, the movie is less about the art and more about the downward spiral of its heroine. A-