Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” is not so much a descent into obsession as it is a descent into complete and utter madness.
By the end of the movie, it is impossible to not feel extremely exhausted – both emotionally and psychologically. After all, the final 30 minutes of the film are more intense than just about anything else seen on the big screen this year.
And that is quite an accomplishment for a movie that is essentially about ballet. However, you will never look at ballet or any other expressive medium the same way ever again after enduring Aronofsky’s unique vision of what it means to be our own worst enemy.
Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayers, a ballerina in a New York City company whose director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) has selected “Swan Lake” as his premier project for this season. Much to her surprise, Thomas selects Nina to play the lead.
However, this also means that Thomas’s former star Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) is being forced to retire her pink shoes. And to say that she refuses to go quietly would be a drastic understatement. But Nina tries not to allow Beth’s obsession to distract her from the task at hand.
Then again, when Mila Kunis’s Lily joins the company, bringing a raw sexuality with her, Nina is beyond intimidated – especially because Thomas constantly criticizes Lily for not possessing the duality required of portraying both the White and Black Swans.
And thus begins Nina’s spiral into a very dark psychological place in an effort to somehow capture perfection. Revealing the various side-effects of this illness – and, yes, that is the best way to describe Nina’s desperation – would be robbing an unsuspecting audience of an extraordinarily savage cinematic experience.
However, it would be fair to say that Portman’s performance is one of the best of 2010 and probably the single greatest one of the actress’s career. Between her absolute embodiment of Nina’s neurosis and Aronofsky’s ever-increasing anxiety, “Black Swan” is a movie that you will likely never forget.
In fact, it might just give you nightmares. Aronofsky, whose “Requiem for a Dream” would serve as an excellent psychological companion to “Black Swan,” has created a maddening masterpiece that culminates in a completely captivating conclusion. It is surely one of the must-see movies of this holiday season.
“Black Swan” (R – 108 minutes) is now playing at movie theaters throughout the Valley. Visit NCM.com for specific showtimes and locations.
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