Following up his 2008 drama, The Wrestler, a brilliant and tragic film of a washed up wrestler, it seemed time for Aronofsky to try his hand at a couple of romantic comedies or two. He resurrected the career of Mickey Rourke, why not do the same for Cameron Diaz or Kate Hudson? But, he decided to follow up his drama with a psychological thriller starring Natalie Portman. Close enough.
Black Swan isn't a movie about ballet. It's about Nina Sayers and her descent into insanity.
Nina is a ballerina, who desperately wants the main role of Swan Queen in the upcoming show. The Swan Queen must be able to embody the White Swan, who is pure and precise, and the Black Swan, who is seductive and unrestrained. Nina embodies the White Swan well, but cannot bring herself to let go of her perfectionism to become the Black Swan. Nina gets the part in a sudden change of events when a dark side of her comes out during an interaction with the director. But, a new ballerina, Lily, poses a threat to Nina as she embodies the carelessness of the Black Swan. The tension builds thicker and thicker as the story progresses until it reaches a psychotic climax.
Not the best plot to pitch to the Christmas audience, but this film is not for everyone.
But believe me, this film may not even fall in the traditional category of a good film or bad film. Aronofsky follows the story of a troubled, and I use that word to its maximum capacity, ballerina and he takes us on a Alice in Wonderland spiral into hell.
Nina is wonderfully and fearfully portrayed by a great Natalie Portman. She will at least get an Oscar nomination, if not the win. She carries the film as a fragile and delicate girl, who still lives with her babying mother. Portman carries the audience through her transformation into the Black Swan and she does it with grace, power, and boldness. As Nina must be able to portray both sides of the Swan Queen, Portman does so with Nina. She plays fragile Nina with a childlike, innocent gaze, while descending into Nina's dangerous obsession with perfectionism, with instability and resolve.
Aronofsky does a wonderful job of capturing everything from a first person view, showing the audience what it's like to see the world through Nina's eyes. With steadicam shots, flawless editing, and an impeccable sense of timing, Aronofsky takes psychological horror into another level.
The script is a lean one written by Mark Heyman, much like The Wrestler, which was written by Robert D. Siegal. Aronofsky shows us what he can do with a simple script and wonderful actor/actress in the lead role.
Don't bring the kids to this one.