Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Top of the Queue Review" - Black Swan

If you haven't yet caught the film Black Swan and you're a fan of psychological thrillers or suspense films with strong performances then I highly recommend this movie. 

There isn't that much of a plot, just the story of a girl's determination to get the lead role in her ballet company's production of Swan Lake.  But the style and look of the film and the amazing performance from Natalie Portman as the determined ballerina raise this movie to a must see in my book. 

Set in an always dark New York City, the film has a driving force at it's center, just like the drive that Portman has as Nina, a dancer trying to be as perfect as possible so she can get out of the ensemble and into the lead roles.  Her fanatical and very demented mother, played amazingly by Barbara Hershey, seems at some times to be on her side and at other times working against her, something that Nina starts to believe many others in the ballet company are doing as well.  Nina wants complete control of her craft and her mom wants complete control of Nina.

Now this film has some very adult moments, so don't watch this with the kids.

Natalie Portman
So much has been written already about Portman and this film so there really isn't much more for me to add except that I was blown away by her.  She portrays the crazy determined person who believes everyone is talking about her or working against her in a way that I don't think I've ever seen before.  She definitely deserved the Oscar.  And her dancing is impeccable, even if some of it was done by a dance double (mainly the close-up foot work.)  We saw her on Broadway about ten years ago as Anne Frank in the revival of The Diary of Anne Frank and I was taken by her back then, so I'm really happy to see all of her hard work paid off (even that slight sidetrack into three Star Wars films.)

Besides Portman and Hershey, the film also  features Mila Kunis as the new ballerina Lily, who Nina feels is out to get her part.   She is the exact opposite of Nina in her constant training and need for perfection as Lily is a party girl who also happens to be a great dancer.  Kunis is the type of actress, like Portman, that you can't take your eyes off of.  Also in the cast is Vincent Cassell as the leader of the dance company.  He has the perfect balance of romantic charm and drive to get what he wants from his dancers.  His facial expressions tell you exactly what he is thinking and when he doesn't believe Nina is doing what he needs to have her do, she and us immediately know it just from looking at him.  Winona Ryder also appears in a small part as the ballet company's current lead dancer who is a bit past her prime.  She's a little nuts as well.

Millepied and Portman
Also of note, the lead male dancer is played by Benjamin Millepied, the film's choreographer who also is now the father of Portman's child.  Millepied's choreography for the film is inventive and stylish and I loved how the camera work and editing combined brilliantly to work with the choreography to show many unbroken dance scenes instead of the rapid editing we're now used to in films.

The film makes you start to believe, just like Nina does, that everyone is out to get her and will have you second guessing, just like Nina does as to what is real and what is all in her head.

Rent it now.

Amazon link for the dvd of Black Swan

Amazon link for the Blu-ray of Black Swan [Blu-ray]

Official trailer for the film

Behind the scenes- talking about the training for the film -

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