PG Cooper: Black Swan Review

Posted: December 19, 2010 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: December 3rd, 2010

Written by: Mark Heyman, Andrew Heinz, John McLaughlin

Directed by: Darren Arnofosky

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder

What kind of Metal head wants to see a movie about a ballet dancer? This Metal head does, especially if it’s a psychological thriller directed by Darren Arnofosky (The Wrestler) and receiving some of the best reviews of the year. I was so excited to see this film and so devastated when it initially didn’t receive a wide-release. Little did I know that just two weeks later, the film would hit more theaters and I’d finally be able to see it. So with all that hype, did Black Swan deliver?

The film follows a dancer named Nina (Natalie Portman). Nina is a member of a New York ballet company currently putting on a production of “Swan Lake”. While Nina is one of the best dancers there from a technical stand-point, she lacks the natural passion and intensity that director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) feels the character of “The Black Swan” needs. Though Leroy is initially ensure, Nina’s persistence pays off as she is given the role. But now she must cope with the stress of mastering “The Black Swan”, and deal with the pressures her mother, (Barbara Hershey) a former dancer herself, puts on her. On top of that, a new girl arrives at the company named Lily (Mila Kunis). While she seems friendly, Nina isn’t sure if she can trust her and wonders if Lily is just after her role.

Apart from this, I’ve only seen one Darren Arnofosky film, The Wrestler. With that said, I do consider him a great director and this film further solidifies this for me. Arnofosky’s style is present yet again here, as a hand-held style camera is often used and really lends to the realism of the world. Arnofosky’s style is put to full use during the dancing scenes. I have no interest in ballet whatsoever, but I was mesmerized by the dancing in this film. I’ve heard the direction in the dancing scenes described as letting the audience dance with the film, which is the perfect way to describe it.

The character of Nina is delusional and several of the sequences in the film may or may not be hallucinations. It’s these moments where Arnofosy’s direction really shines. These scenes are always very inventive, beautifully shot, and really creepy. These scenes start out fairly mild, but become more intense and more frightening as the film progresses to the point that by the end of the film, you are very scared, nervous, and uncomfortable.

Natalie Portman has received unanimous praise for her performance here. All the praise is justified, Portman is amazing here. I’ve always liked her as an actress, but this role propels her to new levels. In the film, Nina goes through a lot and Portman brings her stress and pain to the screen perfectly. Portman’s terrific performance is so compelling, she really draws you into the film’s story and is the main reason for any emotional investment. Portman is currently getting a lot of Oscar buzz. Not only do I think she should be nominated, but I also think she should won. Portman’s performance isn’t just the best performance by an actress I’ve seen this year, it’s the best performance I’ve seen by any individual (actor or actress) this year.

While none of the other performances are on the same level as Portman, the supporting cast here is quite good. The biggest surprise here is Mila Kunis. Kunis isn’t a bad actress, but she’s never done anything on this level. She’s typically remembered for her character on “That 70’s Show” and for playing Meg on “Family Guy.” Her performance here is very good as you never know what her true motivations are. Is she scheming to take Nina’s role, or is she trying to be genuinely friendly? Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey are also quite good as director Thomas Leroy and Nina’s mother, the two people who pressure Nina the most. Both are very frightening and discomforting. Probably the creepiest performance comes from Winona Ryder as a former dancer named Beth. Not only is she scary on her own merits, but the fact that Nina could possibly end up like Beth makes her all the more frightening.

The story of the film is fascinating. You really do get caught up in the story and become genuinely interested in Nina’s fate. As I mentioned, you’re never sure if what you’re seeing is real or a hallucination. This makes the film very unpredictable and I can honestly say I never knew what was coming next.

This is easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year. From the incredible acting, including the best performance of the year, fantastic direction from Arnofosky, a great script, and some really great special effects make Black Swan an unforgettable experience. The film is very strange, and that likely will turn a lot of people off. But if you don’t mind the bizarre and confusing story, you’re in for one hell of a film.

Rating: A+

  1. deb says:

    Hey Daniel,

    Great review!

    I agree; outstanding performances by both Natalie and Mila. I was left totally exhausted and traumatized by this movie; in a good way; I invested all my emotions, which isn’t often the case for most movies.

    deb (your mom’s colleague)

  2. vinnieh says:

    Great review, loved the film and especially Portman’s portrayal of Nina.

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