Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is an exhilarating and exhausting ride. It’s hard to distinguish what’s reality and what’s just fantasy, so you just have to take the movie for what it is: an intense, powerful look at coming into one’s self and the vulnerability that comes with it. The film centers around Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), a dedicated dancer at a successful company in New York. She’s up for the lead position in her company’s rendition of Swan Lake. But in steps the spicy Lily (Mila Kunis), her biggest competition.
Co-reviewer Eric Robinette says, “You can’t trust anything Black Swan shows you. That’s what makes it so enthralling … If you come out of this movie questioning it, and feeling troubled by it, I say good – that’s as it should be. But I even those who doubt it won’t be able to forget it.”
Nina sets high expectations for herself and lacks the confidence she needs to take risks. So she fixates on the young, confident women around her, whether it’s Lily or Winona Ryder’s character Beth, the former lead dancer who’s being replaced. Nina is stuck in a rut, and quite literally still a child. Due in part to her overbearing mother, Nina, who’s in her mid-20s, still lives at home and has never matured as a woman. She is intrigued by Lily and the ease at which she oozes sexuality.
Nina’s relationship with her mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) was oftentimes difficult to watch, but in a good way. Her mother was also a dancer when she was young but had to sacrifice her career to raise Nina. The mother hardcore resents her daughter and tries to subtly hold her back. Through the strange friendship with Lily, Nina is able to stand up to her mother for the first time. She slowly gains the self-awareness she needs to become an independent woman.The psychological elements of the film were very well done. Even as Nina slowly gains a spine in terms of confronting her mother and company director Thomas (Vincent Cassel), she is unraveling. As the stress of the upcoming Swan Lake performance is barreling down on her Nina becomes paranoid that Lily is out to get her.
Portman absolutely shined in this film and I can’t wait to see how many awards she racks up as the season kicks off. She played the role with such grace and elegance and danced wonderfully. As the movie progressed she transitioned from innocent to strong-willed in a way that was engrossing to watch. Co-reviewer Eric Robinette says, “That psyche also shows through Portman’s tour-de-force performance. The diminutive actress masterfully veers between a frightened waif and a woman scorned, and is utterly convincing as both. Nina wants to be a gentle soul but, her dark side is so potent, it terrifies her — and it shook me too. I am rooting hard for her to win the Best Actress Oscar. It’s the performance of the year.”