Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: Black Swan

Part of the problem with reviewing a film is that often times you have to discuss the plot and, in plot or character driven film, you risk giving away important twists or interesting developments, even without meaning to. So therefore, to avoid this, I'd like to simply throw up a quick bit on the quality and whether you should go see it. To all of you on the fence, against seeing this movie or want to but haven't yet:

What the fuck is WRONG with you? Get your ass to the theater. This is the boldest, most unique, most visionary film I've seen all year. It finally usurps Girl With the Dragon Tattoo's spot as the best movie of the year so far. It doesn't matter if you want to see it because you liked The Wrestler, or because you want to see Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis get it on or because you want to figure out what the HELL is going on in the trailer. Get. To. The. Theater. Movies of this caliber do not come along every day, go out and see it. Don't go on to read the rest, I might accidentally spoil something, and half the fun of this movies is how INSANE it gets. Come back and read it afterwards. Or don't, just see it.

Okay, for those of you who have seen it and want my thoughts, or are willing to risk spoilers to get my detailed thoughts (go see it), here we go:

This has been a good year for good director/actor teamups. First we had David Fincher and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network. Then we had Danny Boyle and James Franco in 127 Hours. Now we have Darren Aronofsky and Natalie Portman in Black Swan and like the 2 before it, it's yielded one of the best films of the year.

The setup is fairly simple. Natalie Portman is Nina, ballerina with a domineering mother and more than a couple issues is cast as the lead in Swan Lake. Don't know Swan Lake? It's cool, you'll catch up. See, one of the big things about Swan Lake is that the lead Ballerina has to play both the pure and virginal white swan and the lustful black swan, and while Nina is perfect for the white swan, she is consistently having problems playing the black swan. Enter Mila Kunis as Lily, the perfect dancer for the black swan for...well obvious reasons. Soon the attempts to delve into her darker side to find the black swan are causing her sanity to begin to fray. That's all I can say without really spoiling anything, and TRUST me, you don't want the 3rd act spoiled.

As with many character driven movies, a lot of the credit has to go the actors, and Black Swan is no exception. Natalie Portman owns the movie in the female lead role of the year, giving easily her best performance of her career. She will get nominated for an oscar and she should win. She gets great backup work, not only from Mila Kunis, but from Vincent Cassel as the dancing instructor and director, as well as Barbra Hershey as the domineering mother. And keep your eyes peeled for Winona Ryder in a small but important role that she fulfills with admirable gusto.

The writing and direction are incredible, as are the metaphors and points centered around the similarity to the creation of art and the destruction of self. Early on, the film is incredibly subtle, at one point hinting at something with a quick out of the corner of your eye detail that pays off in one of the creepiest scenes in year. Darren Aronofsky directs the HELL out of it, and were he less fearless in his technique, it would threaten to be over directing, but soon you realize that he not gone for the gusto so intensely, the film would have suffered mightily.

A lot of actor driven movies suffer from a lack of interest in keeping the technical details unique or well done (looking at you The Social Network) but Black Swan doesn't fall into that trap. The swirling camera techniques work perfectly with the dancing sequences they inhabit. Subtle use of lighting and CGI are used to show Nina's loosening grip on reality. It's not a stretch to say that the movie is actually scary more than once, turning it into not only the best movie (so far) of the year, but easily the best horror film in I don't know how long. Oh and while I can't tell you about the makeup, believe me I want to.

And the soundtrack, oh GOD the soundtrack. Fantastically written and boldly used, it dovetails perfectly with the ballet it's clearly based on. Used in conjunction with the tense scenes and accentuating the dancing sequences, it adds an extra layer of excellent onto an already incredible film, especially since so much of the movie is completely dialogue-less.

Guys, I don't know how much more clearly I can say this. I was completely blown away by this movie. It's easily Darren Aronofsky's best film and the best film of the year so far. There is no bad reason to go see it, just get out there and see it.

Elessar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he wonders just how long Natalie Portman had to starve herself to look the part.

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