'Black Swan' Review By Dan

I was perfect...
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Directing
  • Visuals
And so was this film. Like staring at Edvard Munch's The Scream and Van Gogh's Starry Night side by side, Black Swan is both gorgeous and at times horrifying. I've long been a fan of Darren Aronofsky's work, being a fan of his last outing "The Wrestler", which was just a marvelous comeback role for Mickey Rourke, and "Requiem For a Dream". Where as Wrestler played a bit more like your mainstream, behind the scenes world of wrestling, Black Swan is much more akin to the insanity that was Requiem. So, let us descend into this most stylish nightmare...

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) lives a somewhat sheltered life. Her mother (Barbara Hershey) being a former ballerina dancer herself, dotes upon her like you wouldn't believe since Nina also has a passion for dance, but this is simply one top layer to the film. There are subtle and not so subtle hints dropped early on that all is not as it seems with Nina. She has a clear history of mental issues and hurting herself that is explained through her mother's questioning of her behavior, which is it not surprising considering how much of a zealot her mother is for her daughter to be the perfect ballerina that she wasn't. Like "The Wrestler", we follow along right behind Nina as she walks from location to location from home to her ballet job, which is directed and coordinated by the fierce, passionate Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), who selects Nina to be the Swan Queen for his production of 'Swan Lake'. While Nina makes for the perfect White Swan with her sweet, fearful nature, Lily (Mila Kunis) also impresses Leroy with her reckless, sensual performances, and casts her as Nina's alternate. As Nina practices and gets ready to be the Swan Queen, she struggles to pull off the Black Swan aspect of her ballet, and we see her intense, disturbing psychosis show literally more and more, becoming both a frightful and exotic transformation by the time she performs the Black Swan for her audience.

To say the acting was phenomenal is an understatement. Natalie Portman gives the performance of her young career here, and it is a sheer pleasure seeing how Aronofsky brought out every nuance in her facial expressions, her body language, and the way she reacts to those around her. While Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel are superb in every respect, this is Portman's vehicle, and Aronofsky keeps a very tight rein on following just her around. This style was used in 'The Wrestler' as well, with the story following Rourke's character around, but Wrestler didn't have the tightly wound psychology or transformation that Black Swan has with Portman. Where Rourke stayed pretty much the same douchebag he was at the beginning by the end, Portman's character evolves and gains confidence by the film's conclusion, although that confidence is gained at a steep price, with her sanity almost non-existent at that point and the audience falling down the rabbit hole with her into oblivion. If Natalie Portman does not win an Oscar for Black Swan, I will be pretty upset, because she proves time and again she is one of the finest young actresses out there (maybe 'the' finest young actress of her generation), and Aronofsky brings out the absolute best in her.

Special mention for an almost unrecognizable Winona Ryder as Beth, whom Leroy previously had a fling with, but is now heading down wash out road. While she's not in many scenes, she brings an intense, dangerous, almost downright vicious persona to her character. While I'm not her biggest fan, like everyone else, she just kills it here. I'd like to see her in another starring role now, bringing that type of A game with her.

I had some trepidation with the idea behind this film, though, with the plot being about ballerinas and what goes on behind the scenes between their performances, but within 15 minutes of the movie playing, that worry completely left my mind, as there is not a dull moment to be found here. If we're not watching Portman looking about as graceful as one can be while dancing (and getting chewed out by the demanding Cassel), set to a wonderful, perfect mood inducing score by Clint Mansell (which also deserves an Oscar, I haven't enjoyed a score from a drama this much since Schindler's List), then we are experiencing her doppelganger playing with her mind to scary effect. There were several moments that made me jump a little or make my hairs stand on end as we see the illusions that Nina sees. There are many moments where the transition from Lily into doppelganger Nina is just flawless and will unnerve you.

It shouldn't go without saying that the costumes used, both in Nina's dream at the beginning of the movie (a fabulously choreographed sequence), and the finale where she transforms in her mind into a literal black swan, were fantastic. This only adds to the already high quality craftsmenship of the rest of the film, but I was particularly impressed by that aspect. Portman simply looks beautiful and stunning in action.

Should also mention about the sexuality displayed in the film.. it seemed like everyone wanted to touch Portman's vagina. That is not a joke, either. If she wasn't masturbating in her room (a bit of a disconcerting scene to watch in a crowded theater..), or her dance director seducing her, or Lily seducing her, it seemed like everyone couldn't keep their hands off Portman's goodies. Not that I blame them lol. But even this is used in a substantial way, as the seduction Lily and Leroy use on Nina actually benefits her performance as the Black Swan, as through their actions she learns to let go and lose herself, which is what she initially lacked the ability to do. So while other films use sexuality merely for gratuity, Black Swan expertly uses it to advance its story.

Much can be praised about Aronofsky's way of only following our protagonist around as well. The film never veers off into what others are doing, only Nina. I can appreciate that, as it allows the audience to fall into this madness she experiences, and not allow for any breathing room. Again, this type of film making is why I consider Aronofsky several cuts above your average director, as he understands how to build and build the tension, a rising crescendo that never lets up until the credits roll. I can only imagine how awesome his vision of 'The Wolverine' will be when he tackles that project, it will probably be among the greats of comic book movies with his touch. While his style may not be everyone's favorite, it is certainly mine, and his tight focus of the main characters in his films pays off hugely with the effect it can cause with the audience. I might not have cared as much had we taken any side trips into Lily or Leroy's worlds, but Aronofsky wisely avoids this.

If you are looking to get your independent artistic fix, look no further then Black Swan. An exquisitely crafted thriller about a profession you wouldn't normally think this thrilling, and once again cementing Natalie Portman as the gem she is of Hollywood, and the artful, substantial mind of Darren Aronofsky. This film did not disappoint me in any which way, and I give it an A-. The '-' for ending :P This was my favorite movie of 2010. I'll be cheering you on come Oscars night, Ms. Portman. Definitely buying it Blu Ray :)

(All words, ideas are mine. I don't steal other people's works, and if you do, you're an unimaginative loser. Any similarities to other reviews is complete coincidence).

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Comments (90)


    Gee Cartman... thanks?

    4 years agoby @cerealkillerFlag

  2. The Dark Knight

    I loved it, as well great movie

    4 years agoby @thedarkknight23Flag

  3. Dan

    @Dave thanks, man. Looking back at it, I would have made some changes, but I'm betting we all get those feelings with our writings after viewing them again a few weeks later.

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  4. Daveactor7

    @Supes can i say holy shyt for this being your best rated review :D Great achievement man!

    4 years agoby @daveactor7Flag

  5. Dan

    If you ever do decide to see it, I think you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised, but we all have different tastes. Thanks for the more than awesome feedback, though, I totally appreciate your taking the time to read my thoughts.

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  6. MovieBuff

    All I've heard is great stuff about this film... but I don't care how sexual it gets or how many people want to touch Portman's vagina, I just can't see myself watching a movie about ballarinas. I know, I know, its not just about that. I get it. Just like the Wrestler wasn't just about wrestling. Believe me... I get it. I just don't think I'm going to rush out and get a ticket for this film anytime soon.

    I'm sure this review is accurate. Portman is a fine actress and has been right from the get-go in The Professional, but that won't change my mind.

    I think the review was insightful and probably spot-on, but I'll be rooting for True Grit come Oscars night. Nice review.

    4 years agoby @moviebuff123Flag

  7. Zak Lee Ferguson

    :P YES!!!!!!!

    4 years agoby @Zak-Lee-FergusonFlag

  8. Dan

    They do indeed have lesbian sex in it, but the camera angles are so that not as much skin is shown than you may think, @Cult. You can clearly see her nipples throughout though, if that works for you :p

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  9. Zak Lee Ferguson

    Also this is not released till Febuary in UK nightamare truly it is but your review gives me even more anticipation, also is it true that you see Milla/Portman in the nude, cause in natilies track record shes turned roles down because she didnt want to be invovled with a sex scene?

    4 years agoby @Zak-Lee-FergusonFlag

  10. Ambers555

    i NEED to see this movie . It sounds astoundingly creative . Great detail on your review

    4 years agoby @ambers555Flag

  11. Summit10

    Darren's work can really glue you in your seat and make you jump with its intense and disturbing prevalence!!! excellent film I do hope its the best film of the year.

    Very nice words, completely blows you out of the water!

    4 years agoby @summit10Flag

  12. kbelliveau

    Very descriptive review. Awesome.

    4 years agoby @kbelliveauFlag

  13. Dan

    @IUH Understandable. I feel the same way when I haven't written my review yet of something.

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  14. T.Clark

    ...but I also disliked it a little more than you. Another teaser.

    4 years agoby @insertusernamehereFlag

  15. T.Clark

    I'll read this after I write my own review...authentic reasons, ya know? I want mine to be as original as possible, meaning I don't want other reviews affecting mine.

    I will say this, though...this movie was f*cking disturbing and awkward...and it worked. There's a teaser for you lol

    4 years agoby @insertusernamehereFlag

  16. Dan

    Thanks, sir :D

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  17. ZanyZap

    Great job! Your review parallels my opinion of the film (for the most part). I too thought Ryder's performance was exceptional - and it was indeed unrecognizable. My filmgoing companion, who granted was hidden in my coat half the time, did not recognize her at all. And you're right: the movie was perfect. I went in with medium-to-low expectations, and I never tore my eyes from the screen. A beautiful nightmare, to say the least.

    And congrats on all the comments.

    4 years agoby @zanyzapFlag

  18. ejk1

    I know. On the bright side, King's Speech has finally come to my area.

    4 years agoby @ejk1Flag

  19. Dan

    That's retarded, @ejk1. It should be playing in your area by now... in my mind, Black Swan is an artistic masterpiece, and its a damn shame your theaters are not carrying it.

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  20. ejk1

    71 comments! Holy sh*t, dude. That's amazing. Still pissed off about this film being nowhere near me, though.

    4 years agoby @ejk1Flag

  21. Dan

    @Dave You wasted the 69th comment... fail :P

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  22. Dan

    @babyH Yes, I know what you're sayin' :P

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  23. Daveactor7

    I liked that as well.

    4 years agoby @daveactor7Flag

  24. thedude-abides

    I gotta go with the other dream sequence...if you know what I'm sayin', lol.

    4 years agoby @thedude-abidesFlag

  25. Dan

    Probably the dream sequence at the beginning actually. It captures the essence of the film perfectly within that first 4 minutes.

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  26. Daveactor7

    Hey supes which part of the film did you like the most?

    4 years agoby @daveactor7Flag

  27. Dan

    Thanks, guys :)

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  28. Cripple

    Hey man I completely agree with everything you just wrote. Very nice review.

    4 years agoby @crippleFlag

  29. SupermanEmpire

    Very nice review...will see it upon DVD release.

    4 years agoby @supermanempireFlag