Review: Black Swan

With a combination of Natalie Portman’s best performance to date and a captivating storyline, Black Swan is a great thriller that will get under your skin. In a good way.


Director Darren Aronofsky follows up The Wrestler with a ballet horror movie. Can’t say the man likes to play it safe. Intense, emotional, sad. A great movie that invites the audience to feel what the protagonist is experiencing. No shortage of that here.

Ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman) has been working, striving and abusing her body for one goal, the lead. The only thing standing in her way is her own insecurities but that could change when her artistic director (Vincent Cassel) gives her an opportunity to perform in Swan Lake as both the White Swan and Black Swan. Light and dark. Sounds perfect…but that would be a boring movie. So to claim her role, she must overcome a fellow dancer’s rivalry (Mila Kunis), her mother’s control (Barbara Hershey) and a personal transformation she’s not ready for.

The pursuit of perfection sucks. But, watching someone else try is entertaining as hell. For 108 minutes, Portman descends into madness all for that sublime goal, and rips herself apart doing it, mentally and physically. There are a few cringing moments that are very hard to watch.

All the actors are great in their roles including Cassel’s use of sexual energy to inspire his dancers and Kunis as the “bad girl” who may or may not be the Black Swan. I was also pleasantly surprised with the return of two actresses we don’t see very often, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder, the obsessive mother and the aging dancer respectively. Both elevate the movie.

You can’t argue that acting is a physical job, but the work these lead actresses do to come off as professional ballerinas is unbelievably impressive.  Just another layer added to a mind-trip of a movie.

4 stars – you’d recommend this. Intense, creepy, beautiful, graceful, violent, chaotic, focused. The movie is a contradiction in tones…but that is exactly the point as we watch the White Swan / Black Swan dynamic. You’ll feel it still after the credits finish rolling.

Random Recommendations
Heathers (1989) – If you haven’t seen it, you’ll watch it thinking you’ve seen this black comedy before. Nope. It’s just that every dark teen/rebel movie has liberally ripped this off for the passed 20 years. Fun, violent and way ahead of its time.


The Natural (1984) – I’ve been looking for an opportunity to recommend this one for a while (the link to Black Swan is Barbara Hershey), as it’s one of my favourite movies of all time. One of the best actors ever, Robert Redford, digs into the mythology of baseball and tells a sports fairytale that has to be seen. And I don’t even like baseball…tells you how good the flick is.


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