in Review

Black On Both Sides

Black Swan

It seems we’re officially in to that Oscar-y part of the year, where the movies showing up in theaters are starting to get more somber and serious as well as higher in quality. Black Swan, the latest from director Darren Aronofsky is one of those films vying for some Oscar attention. Really it’s a little hard for me to imagine something as dark and twisted as Black Swan getting a lot of Oscar love, but then again, who really cares?

Black Swan sees Aronofsky taking a somewhat similar approach to his last film The Wrestler, in that he takes a very visceral approach to putting you in the shoes of the film’s protagonist, and making you really feel what they’re feeling physically and mentally. In this case, it’s ballet dancer Nina Sayers (played by Natalie Portman), who is cast as the leading lady in a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake by a nefarious ballet director (played by Vincent Cassel). Over the course of the production, Nina basically delves deeper and deeper into madness as the role starts to consume her psychologically, all while her paranoia is fueled by her understudy (Mila Kunis) and her overcontrolling mother (Barbara Hershey).
Now to say this film borders on melodrama would be a bit of an understatement, as some of the scenes in the film are almost laughably over-the-top. But for a film that is continually drawing parallels towards ballet, where all the emotions are amped-up, it kinda works for the most part. That said, I couldn’t help but feel like the script was a little thin in terms of the story and secondary characters. But that almost doesn’t even matter, since Aronofsky truly excells when it comes to subject matter like this, and his bravura style of film-making is a big part of what makes the film compelling.
Another big part of what makes the film work is the performance by Natalie Portman, who has now got to be one of the frontrunners for the Best Actress Oscar. I’ve never been that big of a Portfan, but I really bought her in this role, as she gives a performance that’s nothing short of fearless. Hershey and Kunis are fine, and I liked Vincent Cassell, even if he’s playing a character that’s only a marginally interesting depiction of a ballet director. But for the most part, this is the Portman and Aronofsky show, and I’m sure both of them will at least get some sort of nomination come Oscar time.


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