Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Natalie Portman, a Deeply Dark 'Black Swan': Movie Review

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Natalie Portman, a Deeply Dark 'Black Swan': Movie Review

Article excerpt

Natalie Portman stars in a ballet film that's a 'willfully deranged quasi-horrorfest.'

"Black Swan" is a love-it-or-hate-it movie. Put me in the (sort of)

hate-it column. My slight qualification here is because Darren

Aronofsky's movie starring Natalie Portman as an increasingly

unhinged ballerina gets points for being unlike anything else that's

out there.

But being different isn't the same thing as being good. Watching

this willfully deranged quasi-horrorfest, I would gratefully have

chucked it all for a revival of "The Red Shoes," which was also

pretty flagrant, though less deranged.

The Powell-Pressburger "Red Shoes" (1948) inspired an entire

generation of girls to become ballerinas. "Black Swan" is likely to

have the opposite effect. Scrape off the film's heebie-jeebie

folderol and you're left with this: Become a dancer, go mad.

Portman's Nina, a virginal young thing with a benevolent-despot

stage mom (Barbara Hershey) and a mania for perfection, lands the

role of the Swan Queen in an upcoming, daringly "revisionist" (i.e.,

sexy) production of "Swan Lake." The problem is, Nina must also dance

the ballet's bewitching Black Swan.

Because the stud-Svengali artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent

Cassel) is skeptical that Nina can make it over to the dark side, he

brings in a rival dancer, the sexed-up Lily (Mila Kunis), to act as

both goad and back-up. (She also becomes Nina's fantasy lover, or

maybe it's just another one of those now-you-see-it-now-you- don't

dream sequences.)

Working from a script by Mark Hey-man, Andres Heinz, and John

McLaughlin, Aronofsky plays up the thematic parallels between Nina's

dissolution and the narrative of "Swan Lake." He dresses Nina in

white and her co-players in dark colors, just in case we missed the

point.

He blurs the line from the get-go between her reality and her

rapidly accelerating fearful fantasies. A split toenail in this movie

is never just a split toenail. It's a portal into horror, or, to be

more specific, artsy B-movie horror shenanigans. …

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