Cinema Clash Podcasters talk Darkest Hour, The Shape of Water, Wonder Wheel, and the DC Film Critics Awards
Mini-Reviews: I, Tonya
Review: Mudbound
Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Mainstream Chick with Greta Gerwig @Middleburg

Black Swan

Arty Chick and other arty-minded film folks will have to weigh in on this one, because I know (from listening to the buzz of some of my favorite and well-respected chicks and roosters) that Black Swan could potentially be described as “phenomenal”. But my description leans more toward “phenomenally twisted” and kinda creepy. So you may really, really like this movie… or really, really not like this movie.. or really, really spend a lot of time contemplating if you liked it or not. I fall into the latter category! It’s not a “mainstream” movie, but it does have the potential to cross over a bit, thanks mostly to the stunning (albeit creepy) performances by Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder.

Black Swan is dark, strange, and oddly mesmerizing. If you like other movies from director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream, Pi), then you’ll probably like this one too. Aronofsky creates a world of stark contrast – literally and figuratively – painting the characters and the setting in alternating shades of black and white, and then plenty of gray. It is artfully done. But you need to be in the mood for art.

Portman plays Nina, a committed-to-the-point-of-obsessed ballet dancer who finally gets her big break – a chance to play the Swan Queen in a new, innovative take on Tchaikovsky’s classic Swan Lake. But to truly succeed in the role, Nina must learn to find and embrace her dark side. That quest leads her down a dark and twisted path that includes self-mutilation, sexual fantasy, and a kinky love scene with her main rival/frenemy (Kunis). It’s all a bit weird and trippy and depressing… and the main characters look so alike that it’s hard to tell them apart, especially in the beginning. But the dancing is captivating, the mind games are challenging, and without question, the individual performances are outstanding. Black Swan isn’t for everyone. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Natalie Portman on the short list for a ‘best actress’ nomination.

2 Comments

  1. Arty Chick, December 10, 2010:

    Mainstream Chick’s description of twisted and creepy is pretty apt, but I liked it. Yes it is Arty with a capital A, and since that’s my kind of movie, I was with it all the way. You have to be prepared for the psychological rabbit hole that Nina falls down. The wall between fantasy and reality fades away slowly and you are never sure which is the real world. This is partly because her real world is already so strange — particularly her infantilized life with her mother, complete with some serious self-mutilating problems, and her obsessive existence living only for the chance to star in the ballet before she gets too old. (That Winona Ryder was the aged, washed-up dancer was really depressing.) I also agree that there will most likely be a well-deserved Oscar nom for Natalie Portman, not only for her portrayal of the fragile Nina turned evil, but also for the dancing. I’d be interested to know how true ballet aficionados see it though.

  2. Jodi Sweed, December 12, 2010:

    I just didn’t like this movie…I think it was lost on me.

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