Thursday, August 22, 2013

Black Swan

[Reviewed on December 23rd, 2010]

Main Takeaway:  
Queen Amidala goes from little girl to grown woman in a span of 100 minutes in an interesting spin of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hype, ballerina style.  Verdict:  Rental

  • Short, it was a little over 90 minutes so the pacing was quick and efficient
  • From a layman's standpoint, I thought the dancing was beautiful
  • This is really Natalie Portman's film; she nails the role of Nina
  • Mila Kunis' Lily provides a great foil for Nina
  • Some of the finer points of ballet, from the stretching, countless hours of practice sessions, to the minor nuances such as ripping out the soles of their shoes and burning the tips of the strings so that they don't fray, were great ways of showing the amount of physical, mental and emotional preparation needed to excel at ballet
  • Technical aspects (both the dancing and the camera tricks) were impressive.  How did they film those scenes with the mirrored walls and not get the camera in the shot?
  • I thought was the Mom character was going to be creepy/domineering and it was but luckily, it didn't venture into Mommy Dearest territory.
  • Very subtle take on puberty, with the wings coming in and growing out the little girl bubble that Nina lived in
  • Very subtle riff on the Wolfman/Doctor Jekyl and Mr. Hyde story

  • The whole "was it a dream" thing felt too "Fight Club" for me.  
  • The girl on girl action was meh.
  • This is probably the Winona fanboy in me saying this but Winona Ryder's character was hardly there.  Sure, she has a disturbing scene in the hospital towards the end but her performance didn't convince me that she was this spectacular ballerina.  Too bad there weren't scenes of her trying to do some complex moves but falter because of age, or lack of skill or some kind of detriment that forced her out which forces Thomas to force her into retirement.
  • From a non-ballet perspective, I'm not sure why Nina felt that she had to be the Black Swan in this particular production.  If she felt that she wasn't up to it, couldn't she have waited until the next production of something else?
  • So, Nina slams the door on Mom's fingers and then Mom refuses to wake Nina up for the big, opening day of Black Swan.  You see Mom pouting on the couch while Nina complains to her about not waking her up.  And yet, towards the finale of the Black Swan production, there is a shot of Mom out in the audience.  I guess it's possible that despite being abused by Nina and not wanting to do anything with her anymore, Mom still cares for Nina and goes and buys a ticket (or got one from Nina already) and went to see the show.  But still, seeing her in the audience was a bit jarring for me.

Overall, I was entertained but I wasn't blown away by it ... certainly not Best Picture nominee blown away, I was far more entertained with Inception, Toy Story 3, The King's Speech, and The Social Network, especially Inception.  I think part of the frustration of the movie comes from Nina's slow progression from White Swan to Black Swan/Girl to Womanhood.  It doesn't really kick in until Nina and Lily start getting chummy towards the last act.  The scene where Nina blows off her mom and goes out drinking with Lily is, to me, the only point in the movie where you're rooting for her.  In all of the previous scenes, I really wanted to relate to Nina, especially the scenes with her mother but didn't make a strong connection until towards the end.  Perhaps that was intentional but I felt the character development was too slow, especially for a movie that is about 100 minutes long.

Starring:  Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
Written By:  Mark Heyman, Adnres Heinz, and John J. McLaughlin
Directed By:  Darren Aronofsky
Genre:  Drama/Thriller
Rated R 

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