BLACK SWAN Review

'Black Swan' is most likely the closest thing we will ever get to seeing Darren Aronofsky make a horror film. Though it doesn't fit within the conventions of those types of films, it is still essentially a film revolving around the downward spiral of its main character into a mentally insane state of mind. Natalie Portman's Nina offers us a front row seat not only into the career of a ballet dancer, but into the many facets that go into what it takes to get roles, the pressure to fulfill them and the tension between you and your peers when you are rewarded with what they all desire. Ballet is not at the center of the film, it simply serves as a beautiful and elegant backdrop for one of the more terrifying aspects the human mind can conjure up.

Nina is completely dedicated to her dancing, she is trapped, locked away in her own little world where her mother still treats her as a child and allows her seemingly no contact with anyone or any influence beyond those of the other dancers at her company. There are several factors that account for Nina slowly spinning out of control, allowing the role of the swan queen in director Thomas Leroy's, played by the wonderfully arrogant Vincent Cassel, new, stripped down production of swan lake. It is all she ever wanted, but his criticisms that accuse her of only being capable of playing the white swan and not the darker, more ruthless black swan seem the root of this state where Nina is convinced there is someone around every corner trying to strip her of her dream role by showing they can do darker, better. And so, she must prove them wrong, and disturbing does she go.

These insecurities send her into this psychotic meltdown and it is with constant handheld camera motions and seeing this story play out strictly through Nina's perspective that we are sucked into her world and become as lost and confused as she does. Aronofsky uses a similar style to document Nina as he did to Rand "The Ram" in 'The Wrestler'. The camera is so intense on Portman we feel as if she could begin talking to us about her problems at any moment. This, for me, was the films greatest achievement. The ability to draw us in to such a dark world, to make us feel a part of it to come out of it feeling so affected. Aronofsky is a pro at this and he plays his cards with grace here. This is certainly a film for people who love films, it brings out the importance of costumes and lighting, of the musical score and the subtle acting. It is all very artsy and moving, yet it is strangely appealing. In saying those things, it was hard not to notice the deep contrasts between Nina's constant pink and white outfits and Lily's consistent dark tutu's. The swelling of the classical score was impeccable, another of my favorite sections of the film. It simply flowed with the pace of the movie so perfectly, it did what a musical score is supposed to do to its fullest extent, it made it better.

Much has been and will be said of the quality of this film. Some will love it, others simply won't get it. Natalie Portman will most likely be nominated and who am I to say she doesn't deserve it. This was a very demanding role and she dove into it completely embodying this strange girl who never really pins down what it is exactly she wants to be, but instead is silent and secluded, she is almost not a person at all, yet Portman makes her such a figure we can hardly take our eyes off her. When we do though it is usually to stare at Lily.

Will Portman be nominated? Yes, but I am more and more impressed with Mila Kunis every time I see her and here she truly rises to the top of my new favorite actress list. For me, it is her performance that grounds the film from becoming overly strange, from tripping over it's own elements that might make the audience laugh instead of sit there in shock. Kunis as Lily is either a figment of Nina's imagination or a ploy sent in by Leroy to evoke the inner black swan in Nina. Either way Kunis is sly and stunning and balances every strange turn Nina takes with a striking opposite reaction.

And though this is a movie that will no doubt be adored by film lovers I simply couldn't love it as much as it's hyped has played it up to be. It isn't a disappointment, but is neither as exhilarating or as excellent as I hoped it to be.