By James, Caryn
Newsweek , Vol. 156, No. 23
Byline: Caryn James
Director Darren Aronofsky's darkly enthralling entertainment makes the perfect antidote to too many sugary holiday Nutcrackers. Nina (Natalie Portman), an obsessive ballerina newly made prima for Swan Lake, is endless grace onstage. Offstage she is as tightly wound as the dancer on her childish music box: she retches in the ladies' room, tends her bloodied toes, indulges in fantasies both sexual and paranoid, and is altogether psycho in a delirious Hitchcockian way. With sublime balance, the film combines its high-art subject with the jolt of a sexually charged thriller.
Yes, there is lovely Tchaikovsky music, and tutus. Boyishly thin Portman reportedly trained hard (although you rarely see her feet as she dances). But Black Swan's up-to-the-minute brilliance comes from its blatant use of sex and its Sixth Sense-informed narrative. Vincent Cassel is a manipulative Balanchine-inspired artistic director who seduces then dumps his stars; Winona Ryder plays his latest has-been. He goads Nina into exploring her sexuality--not with him, with herself--so she can inhabit her dual role. …