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Black Swan (2010)

A 2010 psychological thriller directed by Darren Aronofsky.

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"I Wanted to Be Perfect..."

  • Jan 17, 2011
I don't admit to being a big Darren Aronosfky fan.  I enjoyed Pi and Requiem for a Dream, but he never became a director that I thought was worth putting on my radar.  He makes intriguing films to be certain, but Black Swan was the first time I saw one of his films and felt blown away by it.  Like I'd just sat through something magical, simple and yet very complex at the same time.  It has its moments where it goes overboard, scenes that go to extremes that, for the most part, are quite forgettable (we'll get to that) but the film itself is quite unique. 

Black Swan focuses on Nina (Natalie Portman) who is a hard-working ballerina.  The studio she performs for is getting ready to produce Swan Lake.  The star of the studio, a woman named Beth (Winona Ryder) is stepping down (forced to, anyway) and now that means that the director needs someone for the lead role.  Nina tries out and he believes that she's good enough to play the white swan but isn't fierce enough to play the Black Swan.  After a chance encounter with the director she manages to do something that sparks his interest and so he casts her as the Swan Queen.  Meaning she'll be both the White and Black Swan.  Throughout the entire production two things keep her from achieving the perfection she wants.  The first is that she knows control, but the director wants her to be able to let herself go.  To relax, not think about control.  In short, what she lacks to be the black swan is passion.  The second thing is Lily (Mila Kunis), a mysterious girl who threatens Nina's chances of playing the lead role.  Lily may not be as delicate as Nina, but she has the passion the director so boldly wants. 

What unfolds is Nina's transformation from being that delicate white swan, to being the evil twin black swan as she loosens up and lets herself go.  She ultimately falls from innocence and delicacy.  And the more she loses this innocence, the more she's able to prove she can play the black swan.  But also, as she loses this innocence, she begins to lose herself.  She slips into madness.  Not for an obsession to play the part mostly, but for an obsession to be perfect.  Unfortunately, being perfect in this case (at least for her director) means losing herself.  And she slips a little too far from reality.

Black Swan is more or less a different way to look at Swan Lake.  As such, Black Swan is filled with surprises, but none of them come from the actual plot itself.  In terms of plot, Black Swan actually isn't anything unpredictable.  If you listen closely the movie will tell you how it ends.  Always reminding you how Nina wants to give the perfect performance.  There are a few things that involve this sort of slip into madness.  Including a wild night out (and wild crazy fun on said night) and making an already strained relationship with her mother worse.  There are some extreme scenes in Black Swan.  Scenes that, for the most part, really add to Nina, but are at other times a little extreme.  Aronosfky has to be given credit, however, he adds a lot of touches that make the movie feel real at times.  The sight of blood here looks very real.  There are, indeed, some parts of Black Swan that may be too much for some movie goers.  Not because they're extreme, but because Aronosfky makes them feel very real.  That's not to say those extreme moments may not be too much for the typical movie goer.  If you haven't basked that much in independent film then some parts of Black Swan are hard to take in.  But these moments are part of what make Black Swan so appealing.  The movie is dark and gritty and isn't afraid to show you the full extent of it.

If anything the art direction probably deserves the most credit.  The sets are just awesome and visually astounding to look at.  It's very nice stuff.  Likewise the cinematography is very nice.  There are some shots that are just awesome to watch and some moments that will leave you feeling a little uneasy, if not freaked out all together.  It's a very well constructed film.

If there was anything to gripe at with Black Swan it would be that the pacing is slow at first.  The movie picks up about halfway through, but the opening moments are enough to make you wonder what the big deal is.  It isn't until Nina begins to lose herself that Black Swan actually becomes interesting.  The ending in particular, is really what makes Black Swan worthwhile.  Anyone can easily see it coming, but the way it plays out is the winning number here.  Without the superb ending, Black Swan would've been quite a forgettable endeavor when the credits begin rolling.  It's hard to deny that the movie is constructed really well.

The performances by the cast are a treat.  In particular Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis do a great job in their roles.  One actor of note who doesn't get much of any credit but most certainly deserves it is Vincent Cassel, who plays the director of the ballet: Thomas Leroy.  He's fantastic, but his performance has strangely been ignored by several. 

Black Swan has a few moments that may freak you out or make you jump but it's probably not much of a horror film.  It's more of a thriller where the suspense comes from wondering how the characters will cope with their situations.  There are also moments where things are just plain weird, which adds to the nature of the movies unpredictable moments.  The story and plot is a fairly straightforward affair.  What keeps you in suspense is wondering just how much crazier Nina can get, not necessarily what happens to her.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of the film is it's use of music.  Much of it coming from Swan Lake, of course, but it's the use of said music that's so lovable.  How the music is used to enhance the drama.  It isn't just being played to be beautiful, but to actually tell us something.  During the films climax it's especially good (and very haunting).  It's good stuff.

There's not a whole lot wrong with Black Swan, but like so much that Darren Aronosfky does, it isn't for everyone.  It doesn't hold a lot back for the sensitive movie goer.  Many of the films moments can push boundaries.  It's not an unusually brainy film.  Just an unusually creative one.  There's very little (if any) actual thought provoking moment in the film.  Just a few moments where Aronosfky gives you something you might not expect.  Something that might be crazy and wild.

It's a great film.  One that's worth seeing just because it's crazy, it's creative, but most of all it's just so well put together.  So sit down and let yourself go.  Enjoy the ride.

Just don't lose yourself.

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January 18, 2011
I'm surprised that you weren't a huge fan of Aronofsky's other films. Glad you enjoyed this one though.
January 18, 2011
oh, Sean also reviewed The Green Hornet...just so you'll also know ;)
January 18, 2011
Yeah, I hit that one up earlier.
January 18, 2011
cool...just to make sure you're notified LOL!!
January 19, 2011
I haven't really seen enough of Aronofsky to really figure whether or not I like him a great deal or not.  I most certainly enjoyed Black Swan a lot more than Pi and Requiem for a Dream... but then again, those are really the only two I sat through.  I've seen parts of The Wrestler and only came to the conclusion that was probably not a movie for me.  I wasn't enjoying it but I will probably see it all soon.  And I've been trying to see The Fountain but haven't really gotten around to it.  If he does another film I'll probably consider it and sit through it. 
January 20, 2011
Oh, Sean reviewed THE FIGHTER as well...I am Sean's Press agent LOL!
January 20, 2011
Well, then who's yours?
February 02, 2011
well, considering that I'm a motor-mouth online, I don't think I need one LOL!
February 02, 2011
January 17, 2011
Oh Yeah! Loved this movie and I am glad you liked it too. This was a total mind-freak and Aronofsky knew exactly what he wanted and how to execute it. Loved the way he got the viewer in to the psyche of his character. Nice review, Sean!
More Black Swan (2010 film) reviews
review by . December 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
4 ½ Stars: Dancing With One's Own Personal Reflections....
Last time Darren Aronofsky impressed me this much was with the film “The Wrestler”; it was a cinematic experience that was filled with a methodical approach, careful calculation, character-driven dualism and compelling drama. Yes, admittedly I was excited to see his latest film “Black Swan” and it wasn’t anything I expected it to be and yet it became so much more. This film is tense, taut, filled with dramatic and horrific logic that will stay with you after the end …
review by . December 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Darren Aronofsky has achieved the impossible: he's made ballet cool. Seriously, get rid of the Best Film award and introduce the Made Something Cool That Was Hitherto Completely Uncool award, and then kick Guy Ritchie squarely in the unspeakables for making Sherlock Holmes.      First, he threw out all that ballet shoe shit and went straight for the jugular, combining Heath Ledger's Joker with Tyler Durden from Fight Club to give us "holy crap it's Natalie Portman": …
review by . January 31, 2011
Ballet is an interesting activity. When done right, it can be mesmerizing and impressive as hell. The physical demands placed on the dancers are enormous (I recall reading a book that described ballet dancers as all being “half-crazed with hunger”), and I can only imagine how heavy the psychological burden must be, especially if you’re not the most stable person in the world to begin with. That’s situation in which a young dancer (Natalie Portman), finds herself in Black …
review by . January 12, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Haunted! HUNTED!
It’s no theatrical tricks but it certainly set the mood for the entire film. It’s seldom at first scene that I have an idea how to start a review, much less right at the very beginning of the show. Granted, I’ve read a couple of reviews here and there on this movie but I have managed to steer clear of knowing exactly what the movie entails. I know I don’t feel comfortable starting this movie, even though it has tempted me since I got hold of the dvd copy. I managed to steer …
review by . May 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I got this movie on DVD, which was good because even after you watch it, you need to go back and look at certain scenes again to try to determine if they were real or imagined. Portman is a profession ballet dancer vying for the starring role in a new version of Swan Lake in Lincoln Center. Portman is pushed forward by her domineering mother, who herself was a ballerina and keeps reminding Portman that she needed to retire at 28 to raise Portman.    Age is a continuing factor …
review by . April 16, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****       "Black Swan" is a paragon of psychological filmmaking; a wild melodrama, which was simply made for the sake of its own unique existence. The project was ambitious, and in some ways, I couldn't have seen it working. A film like this being this good just doesn't seem impossible, but then again, go ahead and try telling director Darren Aronofksy what's "impossible". I don't think that the man believes in the word. He's been making films for over …
review by . May 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
When i first saw the commericals for this movie it looked good, but then again its about ballet dancers....booooring right? WRONG! I was shocked and amazed at how much i liked this movie. It was enthralling, sexy, and at some points outright creepy. The movie starts off with Nina, a dancer in the new york ballet who is looking for her break into stardom after being out of the spotlight for several years with the company. When her boss announces that their current star will be retiring and he will …
review by . December 19, 2010
BLACK SWAN is the story of a ballerina driven to insanity by her drive to succeed and to be perfect. It's also one of the more purely fascinating movies of 2010. Natalie Portman gives the performance of her career as Nina, the dancer. Nina has been with the professional ballet company headed by Thomas (Vincent Cassel) for a number of years, and she's hoping this will be the year she gets a lead role. He's reviving SWAN LAKE, and needs a new White Swan/Black Swan. Nina is a technically proficient …
review by . September 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Aronofky's Swan Dive
BLACK SWAN   Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin   Directed by Darren Aronofsky   Starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder      Thomas Leroy: Perfection is not just about control.  It is also about letting go.      From my understanding, to be a true ballerina, one must always strive for perfection.  Your toes, your torso, your lines must be just so.  …
review by . December 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The beginning of the movie, is the movie. It tells the whole story of what is to come the rest of the way. Unlike the movie it takes place while our main character is asleep so we know that this isn't happening, the rest of the way the audience can never be sure what in the movie is real and what is not. From there we dip in and out of the mind of Darren Aronofsky as he places Natalie Portman in prime position to win an Oscar.      SYNOPSIS      Portman …
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this movie


Black Swan is a 2010 American psychological thriller directed by Darren Aronofsky. The film stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis as ballet dancers in a New York City production of Swan Lake. The production requires a ballerina to play both the innocent White Swan and the sensual Black Swan. Nina (Portman) fits for the White Swan, Lily (Kunis) fits for the Black Swan, and the two compete for the parts. Aronofsky and Portman first discussed the project in 2000, and after a brief attachment to Universal Pictures, Black Swan was produced in New York City in 2009 under Fox Searchlight Pictures. Notable figures from the ballet world helped with film production to shape the ballet presentation. The film is set to premiere as the opening film for the 67th Venice International Film Festival in September 2010. The film will have a limited release on December 1, 2010.

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Director: Darren Aronofsky
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: December 1st, 2010
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz
Runtime: 103 minutes
Studio: Protozoa Pictures, Phoenix Pictures, Fox Searchlight
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"Aronofky's Swan Dive"
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