Black Swan (2011)

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Black Swan - Portman and Kunis Get Steamy in a Lesbian Sex Scene

Jan 16, 2011 (Updated Jun 1, 2011)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Portman, Kunis, Cassel, Hershey.  Interesting thriller.

Cons:Not for everyone.

The Bottom Line: Black Swan is an interesting, entertaining thriller that deserves to be seen.  It isn't for everyone though.


I first started to hear about Black Swan a few months ago.  I wasn't completely sure what the movie was about at that point or if I wanted to see it.  As I've heard more about the movie, I became more interested in seeing it.  The movie did end up coming to the theater here and town, so I decided to see when I had the chance.

Nina Sayers is a member of a ballet company in New York.  She is devoted to her dancing and is hoping to finally get a bigger part in the upcoming season.  She lives with her mother Erica, a former ballerina, and doesn't really have a life away from dancing.  The director of the ballet, Thomas, announces that the company will be performing Swan Lake, though a bit differently.  Thomas wants to cast the same dancer to play the innocent White Swan and seductive Black Swan.  Nina manages to convince Thomas she can handle both parts, but the demands of the roles soon start to push her over the edge.

Black Swan is a dark and rather twisted movie, so it isn't going to appeal to a lot of people.  Even after seeing a few trailers and reading a little about the movie, I still wasn't completely sure what to expect.  While I did think the movie was good overall and think it deserves to be seen, it isn't one that I want to see again.    

Most of the things I have seen for Black Swan have promoted the movie as a psychological thriller.  I do think that description fits.  Nina is a talented dancer, but she has some issues.  Even before she has to deal with the pressure associated with the lead role, she is already a bit unstable.  That is hinted at in subtle ways, but I think it is clear.  Much of what happens is tied to her fragile state.  With the way things are shown, it isn't always clear what really is happening and what is a figment of her imagination, something that might bother some viewers.  

I was a little surprised by some of what happens in Black Swan.  A couple of things that happen are a bit shocking.  The movie does have thriller elements to it, as well as a few horror movie elements.  Those things do help to keep the audience guessing about certain things and help make the movie more interesting.  There is a little suspense in a few scenes, though I don't really think the movie is suspenseful overall.  The movie isn't really violent either, though there are a few violent images in some scenes.  Those things are graphic and even disturbing.  The movie definitely deserves the R rating.

Ballet plays a huge part in the plot of Black Swan.  All the characters are connected to ballet in some way, and the upcoming performance of Swan Lake is a main plot point.  The first several minutes of the movie establish how devoted to ballet that Nina is.  Several of the practice sessions are shown, as well as an actual performance.  Different things connected to ballet are shown and they seem realistic from what little I know about ballet, though I think one thing isn't as accurate.  I've read and seen other things about ballet that emphasize how damaged a ballet dancer's feet are.  That does seem to be downplayed in the movie, though it is made clear how demanding being a ballet dancer is.  In some scenes when characters - usually Nina - are dancing, the camera spins around.  That does sort of give an idea of what things would look like from the perspective of the dancers, though it is a little disorienting at the same time.

From early in Black Swan, Nina is described and portrayed as being innocent.  She is even shown wearing mostly white while Lily, the new dancer who joins the company, is in black or other dark colors.  Nina is rather repressed sexually, something that Thomas points out a few times as a criticism of her performance of the Black Swan.  He keeps pushing Nina to let go and loose herself in the part, something that doesn't really help her even though she does start to explore a bit.  There is a lot of sexuality to the movie, some of it subtle and some of it more obvious.  Nina is involved in a few sexual acts, including a sex scene with Lily.  That scene has generated a lot of the publicity for the movie.  It isn't that long.  In some ways, I see how it fits in with everything that is going on with her, but in other ways it sort of seems like the scene is just there to titillate the audience.  

Black Swan is focused on Nina.  She is a talented ballet dancer, though she doesn't express a lot of emotion when dancing.  She is devoted to her dancing and doesn't have a life away from it.  She lives with her mother, a former ballet dancer, who is very controlling.  Natalie Portman gives a wonderful performance as Nina and I can see why she has been nominated for so many awards.  Barbera Hershey does a good job as Nina's very controlling mother Erica even though she is only in a few scenes.  Winona Ryder is in a few scenes as Beth, an older ballet dancer being replaced.
 
Thomas is the director of the ballet and the one in charge of the casting.  He is willing to manipulate Nina in order to get the performance he wants from her after casting her despite doubts she can handle the part of the Black Swan.  Thomas is a jerk and I didn't like him.  Vincent Cassel does a good job with the part.  Lily is the new dancer who joins the company.  She is also a good dancer, but she takes time to have fun as well.  She is set up as the opposite of Nina.  Mila Kunis does well with the part.  The other dancers in the company are shown, though none of them receive much attention.

Main Cast
   
Vincent Cassel - Thomas
Barbara Hershey - Erica Sayers
Mila Kunis - Lily
Natalie Portman - Nina Sayers
Winona Ryder - Beth

Darren Aronofsky - Director

Black Swan is a dark and twisted movie that isn't going to appeal to a lot of people.  The movie is done well and entertaining for the most part.  It does deserve to be seen, though it isn't one that I really want to see again.  I reconize that the movie is one of the best of the year, but at the same time, I'm really not sure how much I actually liked it.

*This review was orignally posted after I saw the movie in the theater. It is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.


Recommend this product? Yes


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