Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder
Written by: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
BLACK SWAN follows the story of Nina (Portman), a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her retired ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who zealously supports her daughter’s professional ambition.
When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side with a recklessness that threatens to destroy her.
Exquisitely directed, beautifully haunting and by far the most mesmerizing performance of Natalie Portman’s career, ‘Black Swan’ is a breathtaking tour de force that will keep you talking for days.
Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, and John J. McLaughlin and directed by Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan follows Nina Sayers (Portman) on her quest to become the perfect ballerina. Challenged daily by her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey) and her autocratic ballet director (Vincent Cassel), she lands the role of the Swan Queen in an updated version of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Perfect for the White Swan, she is enticed by Cassel to find her inner Black Swan, a task that proves difficult and causes her to question what’s real, what’s fake, and what lengths she’ll go to achieve perfection.
In her best role since Luc Besson’s The Professional and Mike Nichol’s Closer, Portman gives a subtle yet powerful and flawless performance as Nina. This is Portman like you’ve never seen her. Under Aronofsky’s direction she comes alive and pushes herself like never before, exuding a confidence that hasn’t been seen since her early days in the industry. As Nina finds herself onscreen, one can’t help but think that Portman was coming into her own off-screen. Subjectively speaking, Portman gives the best female performance of 2010 and quite possibly the best performance–male or female–of the year.
A stellar supporting cast, which includes a sultry Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder, backs Portman and makes Black Swan an exciting yet disturbing time at the movies. Cassel gives his usual stellar work, Kunis surprises as Lily, the Black Swan, and Ryder and Hershey remind us all that they still have “the goods” with equally chilling performances.
As for Aronofsky– what is there left to say about this man that hasn’t already been said? Not afraid to take risks and go against the grain, he delivers another classic film. It’s a mystery as to why he hasn’t been recognized for his previous work, but with Black Swan he dares to be different (yet again) and creates a visually captivating and daring experience that, in one word, was perfect.