Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Black Swan

Non Spoiler Review:
Darren Aronofsky's latest film sets Natalie Portman on a dark, personal odyssey to perfect her role as the white swan/black swan in a production of Swan Lake. Neurotic, obsessed, perfectionist, Portman's character, Nina, can master all the technical aspects of her dance, but unable to truly feel the darkness of the black swan to bring the role to life. Saddled with an outrageously jealous and smothering mother, backstabbing peers and a seductive director playing head games, the film charts her descent into the well of her personal demons.

Natalie Portman stars as Nina Sayers, Mila Kunis as the new, free-spirited dancer Lila, Vincent Cassel as director Thomas, and Barbara Hershey as Nina's horrific mother.  If you're a fan of Aronofsky's other films, Black Swan will not disappoint and delivers the same stunning visuals and complex, exhaustive characters from previous films. The Swan Lake production that unfolds in the final moments is well worth the wait and provides a satisfying conclusion.

For all it's intricacies, the plot is a very simple one—a dancer struggling with the role of a lifetime. The harsh environment of the ballet school shows both the mental and physical trials of the dancers. Portman has really grown as an actress (my palette is finally cleansed of Padme when I watch her) and has a chance to show her stuff as her obsessive character struggles to cast off her inhibitions. Winona Ryder has a small but memorable role as the older has been star, who has been cast aside by the director in favor of the more youthful dancers.

I found the film very compelling from start to finish, just watching these fully dimensional characters unfold on screen. The sets, costumes and makeup deliver memorable and beautiful imagery. As a performance driven piece it moves quite briskly and does not feel long at all. Black Swan easily sits among Aronofsky's best work.

My only real critique comes from the over-hyping of the film in media, which did ramp up my expectations. If you're a fan of Aronofsky's other works like Requiem for a Dream, Pi, or The Fountain, you'll not be too surprised by what you see. For someone unfamiliar with the director, it might come across as something wildly different than what they're used to. 

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