Natalie Portman in Black Swan

Black Swan (2010)

108 mins.

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey.

“I just want to be perfect”.  This line defines Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman).  Ballet is her work, her escape, but ultimately her obsession and undoing.  She is part of the New York City ballet company who is preparing for the production of Swan Lake.  This production is looking to cast a ballerina to play both the innocent White Swan and the sensual Black Swan.  Nina is a perfect fit to play the innocent White Swan but does not have the dark edge to pull off the role of the Black Swan.  However newcomer ballerina Lily (Mila Kunis) is perfect for the role of the Black Swan.  This slow build of intense competition between the two ignites a fire within Nina to explore her darker side ultimately providing her the coveted roles of both the Black and White Swan.

Once cast Nina begins to display several hallucinations, delusions and at times seeing visions of herself. All the while she is having  intense pressure onstage from ballet director Thomas Leroy (a very dominating Vincent Cassel) who does not think Nina can lose herself in the Black Swan role because she is too busy being “perfect”.  Offstage her relationship with Lily takes some interesting turns that eventually leads to a very intriguing and intense climax.

This is very much Natalie Portman’s film.  She owns the Sayers role and it is by far her best film to date.  I would be shocked if she didn’t take home an Oscar for it as well.  On the other side the supporting cast here is top notch.  Kunis and Cassel were perfectly cast opposite Portman.  Kunis embodies her role as the mysterious newcomer with a dark intensity that plays well against Portman’s innocent outer layers.  Cassel is perfect as the domineering ballet director always pushing Portman past her limits. 

Behind the camera this is a passion project for Director Darren Aronofsky.  He calls this his “companion piece” to his previous film ‘The Wrestler’ as it was originally one film about a love affair between a wrestler and a ballerina but that idea was abandoned as it was too much for one film.  Which is good because he delivered drama with a very captivating portrait of life in the ballet while also interweaving this story with a psychological thriller.

Aronofsky’s Black Swan is one of the best films of the year that will leave you speechless and wanting more.  This film is a slow building train of intensity that culminates in one of the best “third acts” I’ve seen all year.  Recommended?  Can’t be missed.