I have seen Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, and I have findings.
MASSIVE SPOILERS about a movie that’s really best not to know anything about going in.
If there were ten Natalie Portmans then maybe they could have saved the prequels
It’s gorgeous. It’s gripping. The acting is perfect. Natalie Portman runs the universe.
The world of the movie is watertight. Things that require a deft touch — melodrama, digital effects, BALLET DRAMA — work perfectly.
This is the pose I will do when they give me my Oscar
That’s probably why I’m picking at it. The closer you get to perfection, the sharper you can see the contrast, like a skinny girl trying to get skinnier OW MY METAPHOR.
Meanwhile step-sibling Splice is hanging out eating pizza and playing video games and no one is bothering it because no one had higher expectations from it OW MY EXTENDED METAPHOR.
I’d say Black Swan is perfect a-a-a-all the way up to Natalie Portman’s Nina returning to the theater for the climactic opening night performance. Then I would have preferred the following:
1) Nina enjoys the transformation for the rest of the movie, the way she does during her performance as the Black Swan (which is badass as hell).
2) She sees her rival, Lily (Mila Kunis), flirt with director Thomas — the man she’s been working to win over for the whole movie. It does not disturb her. She performs perfectly.
3) Before the second (Black Swan) act, Nina plants a terrible, plausible rumor — perhaps that Thomas got elder dancer Beth (Winona Ryder) pregnant? Or drove her to her suicide attempt? — that warns the other dancers (including Lily) away from him. If it were evil enough, it could justify her Black Swanliness.
I see you had onions for lunch
4) Her mother commits suicide (by jumping out the window of their claustrophobic apartment.) Nina learns of this before the third act, and it gives her the capacity for flight. Now she literally walks on air.
5) Nina completes the ballet. She looks at the only empty seat in the house (her mother’s). Satisfied with her perfect performance, she jumps from the scenery “cliff.” Deliberately, she lands wrong, breaking her feet. She is free of her mother, and, having achieved perfection, she is free from her drive for it.
–UPDATE December 7 —
I wrote most of this right after seeing the movie. After letting it sit a bit — and feeling it jangle in my memory — I have no beef with it. It was gorgeous, insane, precise. It pressed my buttons. I keep comparing it to The Fly and I begin to realize that’s a compliment; it’s the best body horror movie I’ve seen since that one, and, at the risk of sounding monumentally disturbed, I do like me some body horror. Black Swan left me with the lingering sensation that *I* experienced what Nina did — from the split toenail to the bulimia to the sports trainer jamming a hand under her ribs, leave alone the sexy stuff — and if that’s not art then I don’t know what is.
At least Jeff Goldblum looked like his body could take the abuse