Black Swan (2010) (R)

When you watch a Darren Aronofsky movie, you should just expect it to be unapologetic. He proves this with "The Wrestler", in scenes where the lead characters gets beaten with barbed wire and picks broken glass out of his skin. He proves it in "Pi" where the lead character slips into madness because of a number and eventually uses a drill in an unpleasant way. He proves is in "Requiem for a Dream" when a psychedelic final scene leads our characters to make drastically different and equally graphic decisions all for the sake of addiction. But he proves it again with "Black Swan" and I'm going to guess that those who go see his next movie "Noah", expecting a nice Biblical story are going to be surprised. My assumption is that he's going to untangle the euphemisms, but more on that when it's actually released.
"Black Swan", which was billed as a psycho-sexual thriller, is not about a ballerina becoming her role. Neither is it about Nina Sayers and her perfection. "Black Swan" is about loosing yourself, but not to a characer—to the madness within.
If you take a step back and look at "Black Swan" it seems to be saying that we all have the capability of going insane, but I doubt our insanity would be filmed as magnificently as "Black Swan" is.
The movie begins in a ballet company where Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is trying to finally break out from the chorus line. She wants to be the Swan Queen in the company's up and coming production of "Swan Lake".
The beginning, as any scene with Vincent Cassel, doesn't feel natural. From moment one, when we see a dream that Nina is having, Aronofsky relishes in the madness and the where his movie excels.
So he makes the character of Thomas Leroy (Cassel), the company's director, hold the viewer's hand and walk them through the movie. I would have rather pieced it together myself instead of having a patronizing guide.
"Swan Lake" is a complicated ballet—for those of you who don't know the story, I'll make a quick synopsis: girl gets turned into a swan and falls for a prince—prince falls for swan/girl and then falls for a doppelgänger of the chick (pun intended)—girl kills herself.
It's a happy story, wouldn't you say? It's also the perfect setting for a trip down into the creepy depths of derangement, where I willingly go.
Leroy is concerned that one of his girls is not going to be able to pull of the two main characters: White and Black Swan—the good and the evil. The White Swan has to be a virginal, innocent girl who seems at best naive; her counterpart is just the opposite.
Nina gets cast as the Swan Queen, on the condition that she work at trying to loose herself in the Black Swan.
Enter Lily (Mila Kunis), a girl that has a curiously large impact on Nina's dancing. Lily is the girl that everyone likes at a party, her charm and odd demeanor intrigue Nina.
"Black Swan" is a wonderful movie because of its unashamed want for showing the mania. Ballet seems like a picture-perfect world, yet "Black Swan" isn't the only movie who would turn it into something darker. "The Red Shoes" came decades prior and handles the insanity much better than this film does.
The movie is jarring, I'll give it that. It's an epic masterpiece in parts and others just feel contrived. I feel like they should have erased Leroy's character all together and made Nina go on her journey without some creepy mentor figure.
The film looks great, the ballets are exquisitely danced, and Natalie Portman is brilliant.
There was controversy about Portman in "Black Swan" because everyone thought she danced everything herself. Turns out she had a double, but I think we all knew that. Portman still danced most of the film; but even if she hadn't, she deserved her Oscar win. She is an incredible actress and this film shows off her range of emotions.
The movie gets better as it plays out, not that it wasn't good in the beginning. By the time the ending is reached, Aronofsky has turned a premise that could have been silly into a great work of art.
"Black Swan" will be sticking around for a long time.
Whatever you say about this film, you can't deny that it's unflinching. Ballet has never looked so good/bad. It's a delight to watch and an astonishing accomplishment. A gloriously imperfect, thrilling adventure.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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