Feverish worlds such as espionage and warfare have nothing on the hothouse realm of ballet, as director Darren Aronofsky makes clear in Black Swan, his over-the-top delve into a particularly fraught production of Swan Lake... more ». At the very moment hard-working ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman) lands the plum role of the White Swan, her company director (Vincent Cassel) informs her that she'll also play the Black Swan--and while Nina's precise, almost virginal technique will serve her well in the former role, the latter will require a looser, lustier attack. The strain of reaching within herself for these feelings, along with nattering comments from her mother (Barbara Hershey) and the perceived rivalry from a new dancer (Mila Kunis), are enough to make anybody crack? and tracing out the fault lines of Nina's breakdown is right in Aronofsky's wheelhouse. Those cracks are broad indeed, as Nina's psychological instability is telegraphed with blunt-force emphasis in this neurotic roller-coaster ride. The characters are stick figures--literally, in the case of the dancers, but also as single-note stereotypes in the horror show: witchy bad mommy, sexually intimidating male boss, wacko diva (Winona Ryder, as the prima ballerina Nina is replacing). Yet the film does work up some crazed momentum (and undeniably earned its share of critical raves), and the final sequence is one juicy curtain-dropper. A good part of the reason for this is the superbly all-or-nothing performance by Natalie Portman, who packs an enormous amount of ferocity into her small body. Kudos, too, to Tchaikovsky's incredibly durable music, which has meshed well with psychological horror at least since being excerpted for the memorably moody opening credits of the 1931 Dracula, another pirouette through the dark side. --Robert Horton« less
I'm really surprised that this did not win any Academy Awards since the plotline really dove into the dark aspects of Ballet Broadway in a very unique way. Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel and others shined in this. A must watch!
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jennifer D. (jennicat) from ST AUGUSTINE, FL Reviewed on 12/30/2017...
Bazar. But I liked it. The acting was very good, the mother reminded me of Crawford.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Callie K. (ballofglitter) from GRAND ISLAND, NE Reviewed on 7/5/2014...
This movie had great potential and once you start it you really want to see what happens but it leaves a lot of loose ends and that bugs me.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
SV S. Reviewed on 2/19/2014...
If you're not one to notice subtlety, you won't understand or enjoy this movie, as is very clear from the Amazon reviews. All the message of this film is in subtext and small, seemingly throwaway remarks. That said, I understood it and still did not enjoy it. I found it to be a far too accurate and vivid portrait of mental illness and various vicious forms of emotional and physical abuse to be at all enjoyable, despite how well-made it is.
To answer a few questions for people who are confused after watching it: No, Nina did not choose to pursue ballet because she loves it - she chose to pursue it because her mother pushed her into it. Her mother's own ballet dream was thwarted when she became pregnant with Nina, so she has dedicated herself to moulding her daughter into the ballerina she never was. You'll notice that Nina basically behaves like a 12-year-old at home for most of the movie, because she's never had to make any decisions for herself in her life. Despite this need to have her dreams fulfilled by her daughter, Nina's mother is also desperately envious of her, and tries to thwart her success (example: by bringing home a cake when she is aware that Nina is supposed to starve herself, as ballerinas do, and then using emotional blackmail when Nina refuses to eat any).
Another point many people did not get: Lily is not actually after Nina's part. Nina imagines this. She is her own worst enemy, as Thomas says to her, and she projects the "shadow" side of her psyche onto Lily. This is made clear when we see that Nina has stabbed herself, and not Lily. It is also clear that Nina and Lily never actually had sex, as Lily is surprised to hear about what Nina imagined had happened the night before. What alarmed me the most about that sex scene was how Lily said "Sweet girl" afterwards, the way Nina's mother does. Knowing that Lily was not actually there leaves the door wide open to an extremely abusive interpretation of Nina's relationship with her mother.
The best aspect of this movie, besides the final ballet scene, which is worth a watch, is the fact that we as viewers are left every bit as confused about reality and fantasy as Nina herself is, up until the very end (and apparently after that, for some). Nina's character is an excellent portrait of someone suffering from dissociation, and that is the main reason I plan never to watch this film again. It's just a "feel-bad" movie all around. Two stars.
4 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jeannine L. Reviewed on 7/14/2013...
One of the most disappointing films of recent years. A piece of trash and a disgusting ruination of a beautiful ballet.
1 of 8 member(s) found this review helpful.
Nikki H. (Tinyavenger) Reviewed on 6/20/2011...
Natalie Portman gave a stunning performace and can see why she took home the Best Actress award. She really played the character perfectly. Winona Ryder and Mila Kunis turned in great supporting performances. However, I found the movie as a whole just so-so. Given the hype of the movie I kept waiting for something more and it just never got there. Nothing unexpected took place during the film and the ending was predictable. The only reason I was able to stay captivated by the film and not resort to watching most of it in fast-forward mode was the great cast.
7 of 8 member(s) found this review helpful.
Michelle S. (Chelly10s) from W HOLLYWOOD, CA Reviewed on 4/23/2011...
Natalie Portman's incredible acting makes this movie a must see. She is phenomenal. I'm not talking about the dancing, because of course, she didn't execute those precise professional moves (and who cares anyway). She just assumed a graceful yet controlled meekness and allowed herself to transform into another disturbed, cathartic character. She shines so brightly, that's all you need for five stars.
The plot is predictable, but it's not important. There is graphic sexuality, but it is pertinent to the story. This is a great movie.
4 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
Karen D. Reviewed on 4/15/2011...
Don't waste your time watching this movie it was bizarre and creepy! It was like taking a drug ride with the guy who made the film. Their was no point to it, I don't know how they got so many good reviews and won so many awards maybe they were all high because their are so many better movies out their. It has sex, violence, and homosexual fantasy's in it.
This is one movie I wish I had never seen and it is definitely not worth buying, renting or owning it. So do your self a favor and skip this movie
4 of 12 member(s) found this review helpful.
Leonard J. (leo) from GRANITE FALLS, WA Reviewed on 4/8/2011...
Very slow. Too predictable. It was one of those movies that give you the sense of "Ok, I saw it." Not one I want to go add to my collection.