Saturday, March 12, 2016

Movie #348: Black Swan

Hey, we're back into the movie project! Calloo, callay!

Black Swan is a 2010 psychodrama directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel, and Winona Ryder.

Nina Sayers (Portman) is a professional ballet dancer in a company in New York. She's been with the company for a number of years, and her life is pretty much dancing; her mother (Hershey) is a former dancer herself, and infantilzes and controls Nina at every turn. Thomas, the director of the ballet (Cassel) announces that this year's opening production is going to be Swan Lake, and he's looking to cast the Black Swan and the Swan Queen with the same ballerina. Nina auditions, but doesn't have the confidence and passion to handle the Black Swan, until Thomas kisses her and she bites him. Impressed that she has some spirit, I guess, he casts her, and instructs her to get in touch with her passionate side. That is, sex, masturbation, something, just let go.

Nina, though, is losing her grip on reality. She hallucinates her reflection moving on its own, people take on her face or her mother's, and after a night of drinking and dancing and drugs with her rival/crush Lily (Kunis), she imagines the two of them having sex...but then in the morning realizes it was all in her head.

In the end, she dances the Black Swan perfectly, after stabbing Lily for trying to take the role, but then realizes that, again, she did not such thing...and she's bleeding from the stab wound. She passes out or dies as the crowd chants her name, whispering "perfect."

So, I really love this movie. It was my choice for Best Picture back in 2011, and I don't think that's changed. I definitely still feel that Portman deserved her Oscar for this, but watching it again, I was able to catch a lot of the tricks of light and face-changing that I didn't notice the first time around. I'm sure if I was a fan of ballet in general or Swan Lake in particular, I'd get even more out of it, but for a psychodrama it moves really well and it's pretty accessible. Plus, I gotta say, the scene between Kunis and Portman is really sexy. Just to get that out of the way.

Supporting performances are also really amazing. You never hear Hershey's character's backstory, but you know it. Same with Beth (Ryder), the "Dying Swan" of the company, the ballerina who's aged out and is terrified. Cassel, too, could come off as really slimy, but to me, his "seduction" of Nina feels more like an annoyance, something he has to do to get the production where he wants it. It's not until she kisses him on opening night that he seems to feel any real passion for her.

Anyway. Very weird and enjoyable movie.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: Low, I think

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