By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassell, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hersey, and Winona Ryder
I can see the hate flames already coming in for this one. First of all, let me say that Natalie Portman certainly deserved her Oscar in the role of Nina for this film. She brought a set of angst and overall insecure emotions that she has most definitely shown in the past. But, not quite like this. So, my hats off to her for a job well done. Also, it was great to see director Darren Aronofsky, a man whose work I have admired since Pi in 1996, realize his vision of this film that he had in his head for over a dozen years. All this being said, Black Swan felt like a film that was just…off kilter. The emotions of Portman growing up before her mother’s eyes were shown, along with the cool make-up effects used to bring it out. But, in the end, I was completely underwhelmed by this film, and is something that I look at as an overrated mess from Aronofsky himself.
Again, this is of no fault to the actors involved. The already mentioned Portman does an excellent job in her role, as does Hersey in the overdone, if thankless role of the overbearing mother trying to live her glory through her daughter. The role that I had the most apprehensions about, however, was that of Lily, played by Kunis. As she is mostly known from her TV work in That 70s Show and comedies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Here, she brings her A-game and it was a pleasure seeing this girl light up (or darken, depending on how you look at it) the screen as the main rival to Nina’s role of Odette, the white swan who turns into Odile, the black one. Her looks toward Nina and conversations early on make you realize that there is just something not right with this girl. But, Aronofsky does not really pay this portion of the film off, and the role of Lily, while important to the overall arc of the story, does not play as big a role as I would have liked to of seen.
Aronofsky, again, does show moments of brilliance here. His creative POV shots of Portman twirling while she was in a state of high emotions were flawless, as was his decision to show the physicality of her turning into the Black Swan . However, with the exception of one moment in the mirror and some hallucinations involving drawings and photos on her wall (huh?) this is just not made clear, and I would have liked to of seen more of it. Even if it consisted of her seeing a hallucination of the Black Swan behind her in the mirror. SOMETHING else to show, because, as it was, it seems Aronofsky just did these couple scenes to show that he could do horror if he wanted to. And, it is not like him to NOT go full tilt with something once its introduced.
However, the scene of her in the bathtub and the throwing away of all her old toys showed the flashes of brilliance that I know Aronofsky to have. These high points were brought back down to the melodrama involving her mother and teacher. Yes, it involves the metamorphoses that will eventually consume her. But, they were also a bore, and by the time the change actually does happen in the end, everything is so off-kilter and out of control that I just stopped caring. (bleeding and in killing mode? Really?!)
Overall, I just did not like Black Swan as much as most people seem to. Yes, the performance of Portman was outstanding. And, it was nice seeing Winona Ryder back on the screen. However, it introduces great ideas, as Aronofsky usually does; only to see them fall flat on their face by the time the overdone final dancing scene comes around. Yes, it is about a girl growing out of her mother’s shadow and coming into her own. With creatures used as a backdrop. Big deal. If I wanted that I would watch Ginger Snaps (which is a film I enjoyed much more than this). In the end, the only people I would recommend Black Swan to are people who are still reviled by ending up like their overbearing mothers. Or….white swans looking for that edge to turn black. My suggestion for everyone else is to rent the far superior Aronofsky film The Wrestler instead.
3 out of 5