Anyone who likes to watch ballet has probably seen Swan Lake performed more than once. The movie, Black Swan, however, is unlike any other ballet experience you will ever see.
Natalie Portman plays Nina, a star ballerina who is up for the lead role of the Swan Queen in her ballet company’s production of Swan Lake. She is competing against Lily (Mila Kunis), a star dancer flown in from San Francisco who may or may not be trying to take the role from her. Nina, you see, suffers from lots of problems. One of them is living with an extremely overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey). Another is that Nina harms herself. Also, she is prone to imagining things. Is Lily really trying to take the role from her? Do the other girls like her? Are the shadows in the background all in her mind? Is she going crazy because of the pressure of the ballet performance?
The Black Swan starts out very dark and mysterious in a dance sequence which sets the tone for the rest of the film. Nina's mother, who seems to want to take control of Nina's life (and perhaps live through her daughter), could be to blame for her daughter’s instability. Or is it the pressure of being on stage? Why does Nina act - and react - negatively about everything? Insecurity could be her middle name.
Natalie Portman plays Nina so graceful and effortlessly that she looks and acts like she has been a ballet dancer all her life. And the facial close-ups of her dancing show her determination and focus. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress, she will be the sure winner on Oscar night.
Who would've guessed a film about ballet could be so dark? With obscure lighting, shadows and eerie music, Black Swan is definitely not a happy film. But the performances all around are excellent. Kunis excels in the role as Lilly. Kunis is best known for her work as Meg Griffin in the television show Family Guy, but with this break-out role she shows she is more than ready for the big screen. Hershey, missing from the big screen since the '90s, is a revelation as the mother, and Vincent Cassell, as ballet director Thomas Leroy, is in fine form. But Wynona Ryder steals all the scenes she is in as the forced-to-retire ballerina Beth McIntyre. A good comeback role for her.
The final scene of the film is unbelievable, but it is executed with such passion and drama that it wraps up nicely the dark subject matter of this film.