Black Swan (2010)

black swan movie poster natalie portman
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Strong visuals and cast

Story feels very textbook

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Black Swan

Studio:  Cross Creek Pictures

Genre(s):  Drama/Horror

Release Date(s):  September 1, 2010 (Venice Film Festival)/December 3, 2010 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

black swan ballet transformation natalie portman

A swan is born!!!

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) lives a sheltered life with her overprotective and demanding mother Erica (Barbara Hershey).  Nina dreams of dancing and the opportunity to dance the lead in Swan Lake could be Nina’s big break.  The lead of Swan Lake must not only dance the role of the pure White Swan, but also the role of the Black Swan who is dark and sexual.  Nina has mastered the White Swan but becoming the Black Swan could not only be impossible, but deadly…especially when a rival dancer named Lily (Mila Kunis) strikes up an uneasy friendship.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan is a psychological-horror thriller.  Controversy did surround the film when accusations that relatively uncredited body doubles were responsible for most of the dancing and Portman was given credit.   The movie was released to critical praise and received the Academy Award for Best Actress (Portman) with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing.

Black Swan is a tough movie to watch, but it is also a tough movie to gauge.  While it has some great, tense moments, the movie also seems to be lacking something…which makes it rather frustrating.

black swan mirror scene natalie portman

She’s trying to replace me!

The story of Black Swan borrows from a lot of sources.  It is reminiscent of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) and Joseph Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950), and Aronofsky himself credits Fydor Dostoyevsky’s 1846 story “The Double”.  It is both the movie’s strong point and its weakness.  Despite being smartly crafted, it feels rather emotionless and heartless at the same time…The movie feels rather textbook in story despite the twists and turns.

The acting is very good.  Portman is maybe at her best (especially since I feel she’s an actress who is very hit or miss).  She really becomes the horrific character and her distress and fears seem real (but the confidence in her last performance also manages to feel in character).  Kunis also is quite good as the rebellious and sexual Lily.  I generally don’t find her to be a very good actress, but the role fits her.  It is also odd to see Barbara Hershey back as Portman’s mother.  She (along with Winona Ryder who also appears) was such a driving force in the ’90s that it is good to see her back.  Vincent Cassel is good as the sleazy director who also is out to get the best from his performers, and Sebastian Stan has a small role.

black swan murder natalie portman mila kunis

Who’s in charge now?!?!

Like many of Aronofsky’s movies, the imagery is stunning.  The movie in addition to being a thriller also falls into a body horror movie like Cronenberg’s films…there is a lot of disgusting imagery which is both tied to real ballet dancing (like broken nails) but also Portman’s transformation into the Black Swan.

Black Swan isn’t a movie that you can watch very often, and it is a trend of Aronofsky.  Aronofsky also stated that he kind of considers the movie a companion piece to his film The Wrestler since both characters are pushed to the limit.  A good psychological picture taps into hidden fears and pushes you to the edge with shocks.  Black Swan doesn’t quite hit the mark but gets close…and that could be the depressing part.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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