Movie Review: Black Swan

Scene from the movie Black Swan
Black Swan

Just in time for the Oscar award announcements, I watched Black Swan at a local movie theater Saturday night.  Minor spoilers follow; if you prefer no details about the movie, don’t read any further!

It could have been a great movie. It’s especially disappointing to me as Darren Aronofsky created my favorite movie, Pi which also had themes of success and paranoia.

What went wrong:
– Heavy handed
Yes, we get that the lead character may be having issues with perceiving reality. You don’t have to spell it out in movie cliches.

– Boring archetypes
Egotistical ballet company leader.  Infantalizing stage mother.  Washed up predecessor.  Sexually permissive free spirit = grace. Technical talent = frigidity.  Zzzzzz.

– Bad use of fear/horror
During what were supposed to be scary scenes, I was laughing (as was about 15% of the audience.)   Is this a camp gay film?!?  I foresee this playing the Castro in the future with a floor cast.

What went right:
Casting
A good crew. I found it interesting that the four main characters (Portman, Kunis, Hershey, and Ryder) are all Jewish. (disclosure: it is suspected (but not confirmed) that I am 1/4 Jewish.)

Cinematography
The movie felt claustrophobic, just as paranoia shrinks ones world.

Other comments:

Is it me or was it meta to cast Winona Ryder in the role of former ingenue?

Did Portman deserve the Oscar?  I don’t think the part, as written and directed, tested her range.  Her physical transformation (ala Raging Bull) and her dancing were remarkable.

Summary: 2 of 4 stars.

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One thought on “Movie Review: Black Swan

  1. LOL at the idea of a Castro dance-along one day.

    I haven’t seen it, but heard an interesting conversation this morning between two articulate movie fans, one of whom loved it and one of whom felt pretty much the way you do.

    >Her physical transformation

    This award season has only cemented my opinion that Hollywood loves athletes as much as it loves actors, meaning that it rewards actors for physical feats as much as for good acting: actors who torture their bodies, like DeNiro gaining weight for Raging Bull, Bale losing it for The Fighter, and Portman not only learning ballet, putting herself on the rack to turn her body into a dancer’s, get rewarded for the torture rather than for the performance. DeNiro and Bale are excellent actors; I’ll reserve judgment on Portman, having seen her only in the godawful Star Warses.

    Ditto performances that require the actor to take on the characteristics of someone who strikes the Academy as titillatingly abnormal, like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man and Leonardo DeCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. OK, I admit DiCaprio didn’t win an Oscar for that role, just a nomination. And it was a great performance, but the kvelling had that “Oh what an amazing feat” tone to it that one doesn’t hear for, you know, a plain old terrific acting job (like, say, Depp’s in the same movie, or Hoffman’s in just about anything).

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