365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Black Swan (2010)

Swan Lake director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel - Eastern Promises, Oceans 12) welcomes his production company for the upcoming season with the following little story.

“We all know the story. Virginal girl, pure and sweet, trapped in the body of a swan. She desires freedom, but only true love can break the spell. Her wish is nearly granted in the form of a prince. But, before he can declare his love, the lustful twin, the Black Swan, tricks and seduces him. Devastated, the White Swan leaps off a cliff, killing herself and, in death, finds freedom”.

It's short, simple, and we all understand it. And it's the basis of Leroy's ballet. As Thomas is telling this story to his attentive company, he taps a few of the females on the shoulder. It is these women who will be replacing an aging Beth (Winona Ryder - Edward Scissorhands, Girl, Interrupted) as the prima ballerina for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake. Nina (Natalie Portman - The Other Boleyn Girl, Closer ) is one of the girls who is tapped and ultimately is awarded the role.

The key to the success of Swan Lake, however, is that the same individual is able to dance the parts of both the White and Black Swan. While Nina has no problems dancing the part of the White Swan who represents innocence and grace,  she struggles mightily becoming the part of the darker, conniving, and sensual  Black Swan. It is apparent to all in the company. Thomas understands that his production cannot succeed unless Nina let's herself go and becomes the Black Swan. Lilly (Mila Kunis - The Book of Eli, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), a new dancer to the company who possesses natural talent, sees this as an opportunity to become Nina's understudy and talk over the role. Nina, herself, hears the criticism and feels the pressure.

From the onset of the movie all the way to its conclusion, it is evident what a cut-throat, survival of the fittest environment. And while landing the lead role in Swan Lake is Nina's dream, knowing that she has the role that anyone and everyone in the company covets affects every move in

While Nina is the essential White Swan, it is Lily who better personifies the Black Swan. The two turn their rivalry into a perverse friendship. Nina needs to discover the dark side of her self and Lily is the person who can take here there. While Lily exemplifies sensuality, Nina's mother (Barbara Hershey - Hoosiers, Beaches) who does everything in her power to suppress the sexual side of her daughter.

The only problem I have with the film was with Nina's transformation. It was very important to show Nina as a shy, sheltered, fragile, and insecure young woman. Aronofsky did this perfectly. He didn't rush it. He showed that this was how Nina was in all facets of her life and not just the ballet. And I also like how Leroy had to keep telling Nina over and over, while also using all sorts of different methods, to dig deeper and deeper to find that dark side. Since we are with Nina during every moment in the movie, we see what she sees and we should feel what she feels. So why did it feel like Nina's descent into madness came as such a feverish pace? Was it simply because the movie was getting too long? I would have preferred to see Nina slowly lose it rather than feeling like her insanity was being forced upon us in a short period of time.

There were four very strong performances which help made Portman's Nina that much stronger. Leroy, Amy, Lily, and Nina's mother are pulling Nina in four different directions, trying to make turn her into the person that each of them wants her to be. Did these four characters represent pure evil? Were they not evil at all? When you watch each one of them, you really don't know what to think. Natalie Portman's Academy Award Nominee (and probable win) for Best Actress is, in part, to how great the supporting characters were. I don't want to take anything away from Portman, because she was splendid and she deserves all of accolades  she has received. But I also thought Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis were deserving of supporting actor and actresses nominations.

Plot 9/10
Character Development 9/10
Character Chemistry 10/10
Acting 10/10
Screenplay 8.5/10
Directing 9.5/10
Cinematography 9/10
Sound 8.5/10
Hook and Reel 7.5/10
Universal Relevance 9.5/10

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