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Black Swan

December 13, 2010

After watching Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, I’m starting to feel unsure about my loving devotion to him as a director. As mentioned before, once upon a time Aronofsky was the god of directing to me. I thought the man was flawless, however, as I continue to watch his films I’m starting to think Requiem for a Dream was just a lucky fluke. I wanted to like Black Swan, I wanted to come home after watching it “like it” on Facebook and make a status about how great it was. What a sad disappointment that I can’t. It’s hard to articulate exactly what it is about Black Swan that just didn’t tickle my fancy. “Unoriginal” and “predictable” are the words I want to use but those just aren’t the right adjectives. The story is highly original and there are a few unforeseen surprises throughout it, however Black Swan was lackluster and a bit pretentious. It isn’t a bad film but it’s just not good and leaves so much to be desired.

Black Swan follows Nina (Natalie Portman), a rising talented ballerina hoping to get her first leading role in her theater’s production of Swan Lake. The role calls for a dancer that can embody the chaste White Swan as well as her twin sister, the sensual Black Swan. Nina is perfect as the White Swan but can’t muster up the dark passion of the Black Swan to impress director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel). Perfectionist Nina must find a way to let go of her rigid ways and escape the pressures of the role and her over protective mother (Barbara Hershey). She begins to develop a friendship and rivalry with newcomer Lily (Mila Kunis) and begins hallucinating as the pressures continue to grow.

The problem with Black Swan is that it tries too hard to be a hypersexual, intense, psychological thriller, while the finished product is confusing, jumbled and flat. The performances are strong and Natalie Portman does a fantastic job portraying her character, however, her talent along with most of the actors in the film, is wasted on non-developed characters who bestow no sympathetic qualities. As Nina slowly but surely starts to lose grasp of reality and becomes tortured by her own paranoid thoughts, no empathy can be developed from the audience because we are only shown her flawed repressed perfectionist personality. Nina is void of true human qualities, she barely laughs or finds pleasure in anything which is vital to her breakdown in the plot but also leaves audiences unsympathetic to her plight.

Mila Kunis’ talent isn’t necessarily showcased and garners the question of whether she possesses any as an actor. I personally like Mila but her work has never been impressive since she only plays what appears to be herself, a cool, fun, nice girl who occasionally says funny things. French veteran Vincent Cassel’s talent is wasted as his character is nothing more than a sleazy ballet teacher who uses his position to his advantage. Winona Ryder makes a brief nearly 20-minute appearance in the film as a onetime shining dancer forced to retire due to her age. The role is so briefly introduced and ended that the entire character is unnecessary and slightly cheesy.

The film is shot mostly in extreme close-up and heavily uses handheld camera that is meant to represent Nina’s growing instability and blah blah blah. It’s a common motif used in films that question the sanity of the lead character but with the skill that Aronofsky has executed in past works, I expected a more original way of portraying it. The close-ups and shakiness of the camera instead become distracting in pivotal scenes as well as the decision to use CGI throughout the film to show Nina’s ultimate transformation and breakdowns. The tense moments that were intended to make the audience jump are cued by music, change in camera angles and at times obvious silence. While the sound mixing is commendable, its affects wear off quickly as it attempts to shock audiences by articulating the popping and cracking noises of bones and the annoyingly constant sound of Nina breathing hard.

Black Swan is one of those films that I feel the masses will enjoy because it’s an edgy, sexy, quirky art film on the surface regardless of how confusing, underdeveloped and trite it is. It’s an interesting story with a weak narrative and flat delivery that doesn’t explain the mental instability of supporting characters or deaths that happen throughout. Black Swan will more than likely be considered for Oscar nominations and will probably due well in the box office despite its limited release; however with 2010 being such a weak year for film, I’m not surprised.

AVOID IT. I wish I saw 127 Hours instead.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 5, 2011 4:45 AM

    >Thanks for the review. I've just seen the film and I didn't undersand why I didn't really like it, after all the excellent reviews I had read. Well, I liked the story, and the Natalie Portman's performance, but I didn't expect an horror film. I had another idea of the film. You talk about other problems: confusing, underdeveloped… so it must be something else.

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