Friday, December 31, 2010

Black Swan Lake

Black Swan
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey
Released: 12/03/10
Viewed in theaters: 12/30/10

The last Natalie Portman film I saw and really liked was The Professional all the way back in 1994 when she was 12 years old. She's 29 now and all I have to say is welcome back, Natalie. This is easily her best role since she played the little assassin-in-training. True, I have yet to see the other major contenders for the Best Actress Oscar, but Portman is definitely a lock for a nomination.

Portman plays Nina, a ballerina who dances at Lincoln Center in NYC and takes her craft seriously. She stays late at the studio to practice, she never goes out with friends, she doesn't drink, and the very little she does eat, she throws it up. She lives with her mother (Hershey) who used to be a ballet dancer when she was younger, but had to give up her dream when she had her daughter. The relationship between them is a bit creepy - even though Nina is in her late twenties, her mom still treats her like a little girl. Nina's bedroom is all decked out in pink and she still has stuffed animals. Her mother is always helping her brush her hair or take off her jewelry and hair pieces and even unbuttoning her clothes. You can tell that they only have each other.

I covet that coat!
Speaking of creepy relationships, the one Nina has with her coach (Cassel) is exactly that. His company is putting on a production of Swan Lake and he needs someone who can dance both roles of the pure and fragile White Swan and the more sensual and unbridled Black Swan. He has no doubt that the frigid and buttoned-up Nina will be able to effortlessly play the former, but he's not sure she has the passion to play the latter. He becomes convinced that she will be able to pull it off after her reaction to his advances towards her. There are some very awkward and very inappropriate scenes between instructor and dancer.

Even though Nina gets the role of her dreams, she becomes paranoid that Lily, a new dancer from San Fransico (Kunis) is after her part and even as a member of the audience I wasn't sure if Lily wanted to sabotage Nina or if it was all in Nina's head as many things in the movie turned out to be - some of them were obvious like when she's dancing as the Black Swan and sprouts feathers and her arms turn into wings, but there are other scenes where I wasn't sure if they actually happened or were just Nina hallucinating. I hope when the DVD is released there is a director's commentary because I'm sure there are little minor details that I didn't catch.

Although there are a few shots where you are watching them dance as though you are a part of the audience, the dance scenes are shot as though you are experiencing the dance through their eyes. I'm sure this is not the first time this has been done, but it prevented the dance scenes from becoming too dull. Aside from a few difficult dance moves, that was Natalie Portman doing most of the ballet steps.

Black Swan isn't scary; it's more of a psychological thriller that stays with you long after the film has ended. It gave me plenty of scenes that made me jump (and I knew they were coming, but I still jumped!) One scene in particular was when Nina was, um, having some private time and she turns and suddenly there's a flash of her mother sleeping in a chair in her room. I knew that was coming, but I thought it was going to be the mother walking into the room.

Like I mentioned before, Natalie will get nominated for an Oscar, and the film and Aronofsky will also get nominations, but the movie won't win because it's probably too risque for the Academy members. Definitely see this film, but I wouldn't advise seeing it with your parents or grandparents. Trust me on that!

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