Black Swan (2010)

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This is one fine, fine slice of camp here. It's ballet! It's melodrama! It's absolutely, freaking batshit! And I loved loved loved it! I had a hell of a good time watching Black Swan, the story of a sheltered young woman's struggle to create a perfect piece of art, no matter what the consequences may (or may not) be. As the lead character, Nina Sayers, loses her mind in the attempt to discover her dark side (her "Black Swan," if you will), we feel as if we are losing our minds along with her. Often, things aren't as they seem in this movie, but we take quite a journey to find out what is real and what isn't. The last half-hour, in particular, is nothing short of exhilarating, as Nina morphs into the Black Swan while dancing Swan Lake. The sound design and visual effects are astounding. Oh, and don't miss Natalie Portman's baby daddy in the plum role of Guy Who Wouldn't Sleep With Her. He's such a good actor!!


So, it ends up you can make a total bitchfest piece of camp and still get nominated for Best Picture. Sorry Valley of the Dolls, Mean Girls, Showgirls, Heathers, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, etc. Black Swan was the Best Picture of the Year. Trailered with a lot of avante-garde-y shots of Natalie Portman sprouting feathers from her shoulders and dancing around like a fool, I didn't really know what to expect when I nestled into my theater seat, alone, with a box of Junior Mints sitting in my lap and a large Diet Coke snug in its arm rest. When the lights came up at the conclusion of the film, the Junior Mints were left unopened, the Coke unsipped, a testament to the "Holy fuck balls, I can hardly breathe, much less get into some major snacking, Natalie Portman, Natalie Portman, Natalie Portman" nature of this film. It's perfection of the highest degree. It's... Black Swan.

The plot of the film mirrors, for the most part, the plot of Swan Lake, while taking a few artistic liberties, like reviving Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder's careers. Nina, played by Natalie Portman (Natalie Portman! Natalie Portman! Natalie Portman! Oh!) eats a pink and pretty grapefruit and laments about how much she'd like the lead role in her ballet company's production of Swan Lake. She bites the director's tongue and she gets the role. Cue the kind of good girl turns bad storyline we see in most every movie ever made where the lead actress starts off the movie in an oatmeal colored cardigan with the top button buttoned. Oh, but it's so devilishly fun and beautiful and heartbreaking to watch.

Mila Kunis turns in what will almost certainly be the performance of her career (but let's hope not) as the girl who wears dramatic eye makeup and hoodies. Barbara Hershey turns in the performance of her career as the jealous yet concerned mother who pretty much turns into a termite and eats the scenery off of the set in every scene she's in. Winona Ryder turns in a grand performance (I'm not going to be a jerk and call this the performance of her career, because I've seen Mermaids, but it's certainly the most well-timed performance of her career) as the fading starlet who's predisposed to stabbing herself in the face and saying the work "cock" in such a condescending tone, it makes your stomach turn. And Natalie Portman... well, there just aren't words for how ironically perfect Natalie Portman is in this film. She was born for this role. She throws off the oatmeal cardigan and opens the lipstick (ahhhhhh...) and... oh, just watch it.

I can't tell you any more about the story than I already have without ruining it. But I really want to. I want to talk with you about it for hours. I want to talk with you about how I literally stopped breathing in the shot when Natalie Portman is caught in mid-air, hurtling toward the ground as the White Swan, with a look of such utter and complete satisfaction on her face, despite the fact that she's ble----oh! And did she do her own dancing? It looks like she really, really did her own dancing! And did you hate the part where her legs bow out and---oh, cause a lot of people didn't like that part, but I saw it 4 times in the theater, and now it's one of my favorite parts! And did she really fall in that one part? Oh, and--- oh, that one part where she--- oh, and that--- oh! Darren Aronofsky! I didn't even talk about how incredibly directed this is and, oh--- the costumes, and---- oh, the---- Oh!


I have rather mixed opinions about Black Swan. It has a large range of quality. First of all, one of the most notable things about this movie is its lead actress Natalie Portman who gives an Oscar winning performance. When I first watched the film, I was debating over whether Natalie Portman or Annette Bening would win, then I saw Natalie's self-pleasuring scene and I knew. Her dark-sided foil played by Mila Kunis is also very good through most of the film. However, everyone else is borderline bad, especially Winona Ryder who portrays an embittered self-destructive retiring prima ballerina who wants to know in a laughably drunken way of lead Nina, "Did you suck his cock?" The applied visual effects are also a bit hit and miss, but most mixed of all is the quality of the screenplay. The concept of the life of an obsessive ballerina mimicking the ballet she performs in Swan Lake is a profound and traditional one. It feels like modern Shakespeare. The struggles she faces are elegantly yet obviously handled in an interesting psycho-thriller way. However, it becomes dull and repetitive for the first hour. The story builds and builds and does get slightly better, but it is not until the final 15 minutes that the film really crescendos and ignites. The combination of Swan Lake scoring and gorgeous camerawork weaving scenes onstage and backstage take the film to a much higher level making the preceding bad parts worth the ride.