Review: Black Swan

2010/12/24 01:23:06 +00:00 | Jonathan James

Black Swan tells the story of Nina, a rising ballerina star who strives for perfection in order to play the lead role in a new production of Swan Lake. The lead is a dual role, and while Nina has the technical proficiency to play the White Swan, the company director believes she lacks the ability to play the seductive Black Swan.

Over the course of the film, we see Nina's struggle to maintain sanity, and her transformation from an innocent young adult into someone who will do anything to play the lead.

Black Swan is directed by Darren Aronofsky who is known for such acclaimed films as Requiem for a Dream, Pi, and The Wrestler. Here he shows his ability to tackle the horror-thriller genre and makes it look effortless. Black Swan has the perfect combination of building tension, scares, and talented actors that make this such a great film to watch.

Natalie Portman gives the performance of her career in Black Swan and she deserves all the praise she receives. Watching Nina's transformation is both beautiful and tragic,  with Portman committing herself to this film in a way that she is lost in the role. You don’t see the girl that played in The Professional or Star Wars here. When watching Black Swan, I was completely immersed in watching Nina's struggle to maintain her sanity throughout the film.

Supporting Portman is Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, and Mila Kunis. Vincent Cassel does a wonderful job as Thomas Leroy, Swan Lake's somewhat sleazy director, who sees potential in Nina and tries to help her find her inner Black Swan. Cassel continues to impress in each film and really shines during every bit of screen time he has.

Barbara Hershey plays Nina's mother, who is more than just a crazed stage mom. She was a ballerina herself, and although she never reached the success that Nina is reaching, you see her struggle with whether to let Nina succeed or hold her back. Hershey plays one of these characters that you can see is visibly making the audience uneasy and frustrated. For a film like this, she's doing exactly what she needs to do.

Mila Kunis plays Lily, a ballerina who has recently joined the ballet company and is everything that the Black Swan should be.  If you've seen Mila Kunis in other films before, she's pretty much the same, acting as this free spirit that is the opposite of Natalie Portman's character. They play very well against each other and she holds her own.

The classical score used throughout the film really does a great job of adding to the intensity of the events that unfold in Black Swan. I almost always prefer a classical theme in any film, as it helps prevent it from becoming dated. Clint Mansell, who has worked with Aronofsky on his 4 previous films, does a fantastic job of incorporating Tchaikovsky's music into his own for the Black Swan score.

The only minor complaint I have is the use of computer generated versus practical effects in certain "scare" scenes in the movie. When these effects are used, they aren’t overdone or frequent, but it is easily apparent that they are computer generated. It was possible to have used practical effects and would have looked more convincing. This is one of those rare cases, however, where I can almost make an excuse for these being used as part of a story element to convey a specific theme or audience cue. While I’d love to discuss the plot in more detail, and may do so in another feature, I really don’t want to spoil the movie for those who are going to see this, so we'll have to save further plot discussion for another time.

Black Swan is not a movie I expected to see in this day and age. If you ask your average adult moviegoer to name off the most popular horror movies, you’re going to hear the following movies often: Psycho, The Exorcist, The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby

There’s a reason that these films come up over and over again. Instead of focusing on gore, these films slowly build tension. Most of these films featured a well-rounded, talented adult cast and are from directors who have already established themselves or at least had a few films under their belt. Black Swan feels much like a movie you’d see in the 70’s, lacking the in-your-face shock and gore that so many movies now rely on, and instead, lets its actors shine and pull you into this fantastic film.

Black Swan was such a refreshing film to see and it is definitely a film that I will be revisiting frequently. This is a rare film that exceeds on so many levels and instantly draws you into these characters and their personal demons.

5/5 Stars