Thursday, June 9, 2011

The FTT Movie Review: Black Swan

You've probably heard about this one already, seeing how Natalie Portman won the Oscar and the film made money, but it bubbled up to the top of my queue this week, so I gave it a spin. It's hard to watch at times, and I get why Portman won for it; it's showy.

Portman plays Nina, a technically skilled but emotionally stunted and aging ballerina who gets challenged by her creepy / demanding producer into giving a more visceral performance in a dual role as heroine and villainess in an opcoming production of "Swan Lake." The only trouble is that she's not quite right in a lot of ways, and there's really no one in her world that's interested in making her better.

Portman is great in this, and she's also ably supported by the game Mila Kunis, the overbearing Barbara Hershey, the scary Winona Ryder and the odious Vincent Cassel. There's also a lovely infamous scene for all of the readers of this blog that's actually important to the plot, and the direction, by the acclaimed Darren Aronofsky ("The Wrestler"), is top-notch. It's also obvious that the actors really drilled hard to get the dancing chops down; there isn't a lot of distraction from the momentum of the movie, which really goes hell for leather in the final reel.

Having said all of that, the movie fails for me on a few levels, not the least of which is an over-reliance on horror movie cheats and special effects that start to get really over the top. I get that all of this was done with thought and planning, and that's just the way the story goes... but at some point, it all gets to be a little too much, and it takes you out of the story. Portman certainly gives her all, and the piece has many merits, but its heart is too dark, and the execution too muddled, to really be as good as advertised.

Worth a spin if you really like the director or cast, and worth seeing, but not essential.

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