Movie Review: Black Swan

Black Swan
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

It's not hard to see why Black Swan will be nominated for an Oscar in Best Picture and Best Lead Actress for Natalie Portman. Obsession, alienation, and the slow spiral into madness are all hallmarks of previous Oscar noms. It doesn't hurt that there's a lesbian sex scene involving Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman, either.

Briefly: Portman plays ballerina Nina Sayers, who is given the demanding role of the Swan Queen in a production of Swan Lake. The nearly virginal Nina struggles to embrace the dark side of her dual role of the black swan. She enters into a twisted relationship with Lily (Mila Kunis), a talented new ballerina who threatens to replace her in her highly coveted role. A demanding and deviant director and her overbearing former ballerina mother add to the pressures she places on herself to achieve perfection, and as opening night draws near, Nina slowly starts to lose her grasp of reality.

The direction and cinematography in this film was superb. From the cloying head shots to the jarring and sometimes nausea-inducing unsteady cam, this movie captured the ballerina's world view splendidly. The viewers were trapped in long shots of Portman's head, even as she performed, bringing the focus on her internal struggle rather than on the technical aspects of ballet.

Portman's performance is brilliant, her normally vibrant, strong-willed persona stashed away very effectively in her role as a woman-child buried by her own inhibitions and skewed ambition. She totally made me forget she was in those films we shall not speak of.

By the end of the second act, things start getting really trippy. I don't generally enjoy watching what I call "oogy movies"--you know, where you start to see things and wonder if YOU'RE the one who's going mad--and this was a real gut-twister of a head trip, but I still walked out of the film saying, "Yeah, even though I feel like I'm going to be sick, I enjoyed that."

I'm still feeling a little ill. In a good, I'm-going-to-have-nightmares-all-week kind of way, of course. But isn't that the stuff of Oscars?

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