HT Schuyler: Black Swan Review

Posted: December 29, 2010 by htschuyler in HT Schuyler's Movie Reviews

Rated 14A for scary images, strong sexual content, violence and language.

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

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky.

Now I shall start this review by confessing that when I first heard of this movie I had absolutely no desire to see it. It just didn’t seem like my kind of movie. But, sure enough, when it was released the positive reviews came flooding in, (including PG Cooper’s). So after having the movie recommended to me several times, and hearing extremely positive reviews, I decided to give this movie a chance, after all, some were calling it the greatest film of all time, which greatly sparked my interest. But it wasn’t until people starting describing it as horror that I knew I had to see this movie. I went in with little expectations, because I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. But, once the credits began to roll, I realized that I had witnessed one of the most unique movies of 2010. I actually needed a couple hours to think about it before I began to write this review, because I really wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Well, I now have my verdict, which is as follows:

The movie is about a young ballet dancer named Nina, who’s only ambition in life is to be perfect. This is demonstrated threw her bulimia, and her efforts to impress her director and her mother. She is chosen as the lead in the production of Swan Lake, in which she plays the Swan Queen. The movie follows her obsession to be perfect, and her inevitable downfall due to her actions. The acting is top notch. Natalie Portman is great, and she did a great job playing her character, who is portrayed as a weak yet determined, immature and stressed girl, desperate to impress. Now, even though Portman’s performance was great, her character did get on my nerves, but that was no fault of her performance or the film, I assume it was intentional. Mila Kunis is an actress I have always liked, even though she usually plays the same character, but she does a great job playing the jealous rival. Nina’s obsessive mother (Barbara Hershey) is a very creepy character. It’s not that she does anything particularly scary, it’s just that she feels that she could snap at any moment if her daughter crosses her. The one performance that pretty much blew me away was Vincent Cassel, playing the director of Swan Lake, who is willing to do anything in order to get the best performance possible out of his dancers. His character is the most tense, and you are never sure what he’s going to do, and what his intentions are. Cassel does an outstanding job, and I felt he stole the show whenever he was on screen.

The Good:

As previously stated, acting is great, no one felt miscast, and everyone did a great job with their roles. Now, some people are calling this a horror movie, and despite some scenes of terror, I would not label it as such. Now, the one main scene of horror, in which Nina’s transformation takes place, is very well filmed, and had me completely hooked, scared, and having no idea what was going to happen next. It was easily for me the best scene of the film. The music in this film is great, and they use a lot of interesting and different sounds to make the movie more obscure. The movie moved at a fairly fast pace, and I was never bored by it. This movie also had scenes that make the audience squirm in their seats, which is always nice when a movie is able to get a reaction out of it’s audience. Nina’s life plays out like the story of Swan Lake, and her rise and fall are played out beautifully, and you are always very invested in the story. As Nina transforms into the Black Swan, you generally care for her character, and want things to go right for her. There are times when the audience does not know if what is happening is real or not, and that alone is frightening.

The Bad:

I really don’t have that many flaws with this film, besides Nina’s character getting on my nerves from time to time. But again, it was important to the plot, so I’m not holding it against it. Also, there are certain scenes in which it seems bizarre that certain characters would not notice certain things that seemed obvious, especially at the end, but I won’t spoil it. Also, I know this is just nitpicking, but there was one small scene where Nina is on the subway, and an old man sitting across from her tries to hit on her in a rude manner, which added some random comedy to the film, as it is played over-the-top, but it felt really out of place, and had no real relevance to the story, which bugged me. But overall, I had few problems with this film.

In Conclusion:

It seems obvious that this film will be up for several Oscars, and rightfully so, it is a unique masterpiece, and if there’s one thing I love, it’s uniqueness. It breaks free from the film making norm, and is a very tense, thrilling, and interesting piece of work. It’s a bizarre film, but a great one, that shows us that perfection ultimately has a price. Highly recommended.


  1. Lemur68 says:

    Even though this was definitely not a “feel-good” film by any measure, I haveto admit that I agree with you in it being extremely well made, and really the freakiest thing about it was her hallucinations, and then finding out what REALLY happened and the aftermath, I love how the movie actually plays out the story of swan lake, as well as Nina actually transforming. The one thing I don’t agree with was that it wasn’t scary, because was terrified :)

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