Sunday, February 19, 2017

Movie Review: "Black Swan" (2010)

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Movie"Black Swan"
Year Nominated: 2011
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

Ballerina Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) has just earned the lead role in Thomas Leroy's (Vincent Cassel) new production of Swan Lake. Nina, however, starts to spiral into a mental breakdown as she strives for perfection in her role.

"Black Swan" is directed by Darren Aronofsky, who is known for films like "Requiem for a Dream," "The Fountain," and "The Wrestler." Based on those titles alone, you may know Aronofsky doesn't shy away from the bold, the dynamic, and the strange. This film stars Natalie Portman as ballerina Nina Sayers, a technically proficient yet emotionally reserved and timid dancer. She has a repressive and demanding mother, played by Barbara Hershey, who was a former dancer herself and is clearly living vicariously through her much better daughter. Joining them is Vincent Cassel, who plays Thomas Leroy, the director of this much different version of Swan Lake. He casts Nina in the lead role, claiming she is perfect for the part of the White Swan, but wants her to be more free, more visceral, and more passionate to go along with her technical prowess so she can embody the dual nature of the Swan Queen and truly show her inner Black Swan. Rounding out the main cast is Mila Kunis as Lily, a ballerina that is the polar opposite of Nina in that she is not as technical, but is a far more passionate dancer.

With "Black Swan," Aronofsky creates a truly visually striking, bold film. Throughout its run time, he regularly blurs the lines so the audience, much like Nina, starts to lose their grip on what is real and what is not. We take this journey with the protagonist through her mental breakdown, constantly calling into question the validity and reality of what is happening on screen. Natalie Portman does an absolutely amazing job in the role of Nina. Her performance has many layers as she transforms from a reserved White Swan to a passionate, aggressive, insane, nightmarish Black Swan. Portman snagged a much deserved best actress Oscar for her efforts in this film, and actually swept all of the awards she was nominated for leading up to that year's Academy Awards. Though her individual award at the Oscars was the only win for the film, it did receive a total of five nominations, including best picture and best director. There is also a hell of a lot of good makeup and special effects work here as well as the good-natured White Swan has a simple look, but the Black Swan is much more intense and scary looking.

We had written off "Black Swan" years ago as undeserving, but we are always willing to go back and have our minds changed. We now see this is a raw, amazingly tense, tight, thrilling film. It even borders on horrific at times despite being mainly about ballet and the artistic struggle for perfection. We couldn't help but think of someone like Heath Ledger while watching it, someone driven to the depths of insanity for the perfection of his art, only to wind up on the losing side of his inner turmoil. This is a stunning movie, one that's absolutely worth watching and borderlines on being a masterpiece.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 87%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!
Last Oscar season, we were watching"High Noon"

Two Oscar seasons ago, we were watching: "Anatomy of a Murder"


  1. Did you mean Heath Ledger not Heather? I blame spellcheck

    1. Hi Garfield! We totally meant Heath, and we will blame spell check, too! YIKES! What a typo! Thanks for catching it, it even got past our re-read! :O