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MOVIE REVIEW: Black Swan

Natalie Portman may dance her way to an Oscar

Natalie Portman as Nina in "Black Swan."

Natalie Portman as Nina in "Black Swan."

  • Natalie Portman as Nina in "Black Swan."
  • Natalie Portman as Nina in "Black Swan."
  • (L-R) Mila Kunis as Lily and Natalie Portman as Nina in "Black Swan."
  • (L-R) Natalie Portman as Nina and Vincent Cassel as Thomas in "Black Swan."
  • (L-R) Vincent Cassel and director Darren Aronofsky on the set of "Black Swan."
  • (L-R) Director Darren Aronofsky and Vincent Cassel on the set of "Black Swan."
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This is a psychological thriller on the melodramatic side, which at times, is the perfect look at striving for perfection in the world of professional dance.

I’m hit-and-miss with director Darren Aronofsky (loved The Wrestler, hated Pi). His direction in this was somewhere in between.

I think Natalie Portman is perfectly cast as a ballerina in her body shape, face, and the ballet dancing which she does really well (She used to dance, and trained 10 months for this role. Can you say “Oscar bait”?)

I’ve always complained when Supporting Actress Oscars go to someone on the screen for 10 minutes or less (the old lady in Titanic, the black woman in Doubt). If the Academy does this, surely they need to consider Winona Ryder, as the former diva pushed into retirement.

Vincent Cassel, who was great in Mesrine, continues to play great slimeballs, as the artistic director who has a reputation with the dancers.

The rest of the cast is filled out by Mila Kunis (That '70s Show), and Barbara Hershey as the mom.

As scary as this movie got, nothing was scarier than the plastic surgery Hershey has had. Yikes.

I found myself wanting to know more about her characters back-story. Was she a ballerina that didn’t make the big time and is now living vicariously through her daughter? Is she just a psycho stage mom creating a dysfunctional atmosphere for her child?

I was also fascinated by the preparation. That might be rehearsing a scene, or just taping toes and ankles. It could be petty gossip and jealousy over who is chosen for what.

There are so many other films you start to think about – All About Eve, Carrie, Red Shoes, even Videodrome (remember Deborah Harry pulling a video tape out of her stomach?).

I also thought about Mommie Dearest – a movie that critics criticized for being too campy and over the top. It makes me wonder why those same complaints aren’t being thrown at this film.

Aronofsky has some very interesting shots. The dancing is beautiful. He also likes to shoot from right over the actors shoulders as they walk (one of those shots would’ve been enough).

So much of this was visually stunning, yet a lot of it was absurd and sloppy.

Ballet might deal with themes through symbolism, and interpreting dance and song to convey a story. A movie shouldn’t. If it does, perhaps in a better fashion than this film did.

I think Portman striving for perfection – and losing her mind in the attempt to please both her mom and art director – are great themes for a movie. A more straight-forward approach would’ve been better.

How enjoyable is it really, when you leave the theatre debating with your friends as to what was real and what wasn’t. You shouldn’t have to come up with theories on this stuff.

At the end of Fight Club, you think about some of the scenes and how we really didn’t see what we thought we did; but it all made sense.

The movie takes itself too seriously as high art, when sometimes it is. Other times it’s Showgirls with violence. There was enough interesting stuff going on that I’m glad I saw it, though.

I’m giving the movie a C.