Review: Black Swan

Black Swan is one of those films I feel compelled to write lengthily about, because it is an ambitious, interesting work of art that inspires both fervent fanaticism and hatred, like it or not, it has managed an audience intrigued.

Before I go on to the review, I have to say I’ve been really impressed with the marketing strategies employed to get this film going and better its chances come awards season, both stars Natalie Portman and Mila kunis have been very vocal about the amount of energy they’ve put into the project,Portman having lost 20 pounds, trained professional ballet for a whole year, nearly being disowned by her father after he found out about the lesbian scene, while Kunis lost a similarly worrisome portion of her body weight, practiced maniacally and I personally believe, is the best and most natural part of this film.

There are many good things about Black Swan, but the problem is that I feel they don’t come together to form a strong whole, each element seems to be performing competently but separately. The cinematography and set design has translated the script’s theme of black vs white (or more biblically, evil vs good) into blatant colors, everything from the wardrobe, furniture, makeup and shoes right down to their lingerie represents either side of the divide, and this best sums up how the film is so stupidly and glaringly OBVIOUS.

The music comprises of what you’d expect a movie about ballet to have, the characters all seem fetched from some cliched melodramatic play on dance, from Natalie Portman’s furiously shy, virginally innocent, technically perfect but morally too wholesome dancer, to the director of the show, who is a sexually pressing alphamale, has one European accent or other, is non-traditional and unforgiving. On paper, these characters have written themselves to be exactly what we expect they would be, and to have cast Natalie Portman into the lead role of an uncorrupted young woman who is widely acknowledged to be clean, capable but somewhat lacking when it comes to being experimental, adventurous is the most predictable move you can make. This is not Charlize Theron doing Monster, Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby or even Reese Witherspoon playing June Carter, this is Natalie Portman in the role she was born to play, that is: Natalie Portman, the actress.

And the hype with her performance is greatly exaggerated, she enters a scene pivoting her head from side to side, with eyeballs pushed forward and looking needy, batting her eyelashes at breakneck rate, speaks in a feigned, irritating hush, once again, executing the role the most obvious way possible.

The interplay of colors, between black and white is doing most of the heavy-lifting plot wise, the dialogue is stiff and heavy, and the story relegated not by way of interaction, but characters literally entering a scene and reading what is most probably the DVD back cover of this movie. As you probably know, Black Swan is a tale about Nina Sayers, a mentally immature girl as I’ve described before, this ballet (Swan Lake) involves a black and white swan, one bad and good, and the director of the ballet decides to incorporate both the black and white swan into one role later won by Nina, who is naturally built to fit only the latter.

And this, in the most tritest, most obvious psychological interpretations, this leads to Nina developing a split personality, experiencing paranoia and delusions. This is as shallow as the horror aspect of the film goes, there is no real depth or uniqueness, just arbitary and dark creative visions as a result of those delusions. It is ultimately a simple mindmap rooted to the question “What can we do with a delusional woman?”, the answers are plenty but all irrelevant to the making of a good story.

My favorite part of this is Mila Kunis, who I honestly believe is growing fast to be the female James Franco, a highly skilled, committed and versatile actor who can juggle genres and avoid the archetype, she is here given a somewhat immaterial role, half of it is characterised by flirtatious body language, black hair and black make-up and black panties, the other half the insubstantial product of Nina’s poisoned imagination, meaning the character for Kunis is thrown from one end to another, exploited to elevate the psychosexual drama, she holds a light and fictional presence but Mila Kunis, has never looked so good, and is completely unlike any of the roles she’s brought before.

Aronofsky has in past crafted films many will still herald as classics,and there's something to admire in his willingness to fail as big as he succeeds,but Black Swan is missing that trademark darkness,his ability to flesh out his characters via their addictions and obsessions,here its a play-by-numbers ballet thriller that feels like its written by an outsider to the business,whose only defense is to imitate.


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