Written by Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Running Time: 1:47
Rated R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.
Black Swan was a wonderfully made movie that unfortunately probably won't cross over into mainstream acceptance.
Nina Sayers has spent her life preparing for the lead role in the ballet and this is finally her time. All of her hard work has paid off as she is given the lead in an imagining of "Swan Lake" - but is the pressure too much for her to handle? Her mother, who lives vicariously through her daughter, is the ultimate show mom, trying to control every aspect of Nina's life. Her fellow dancers think she got the role because she slept with the director. The former lead dancer thinks the same thing and tries to kill herself in response. And hovering around the outside is new dancer Lily who could be Nina's best friend - or her worst enemy.
I kind of expected Black Swan to feel more mainstream - have more of that Hollywood glow you expect from films with a lot of buzz. But I should have realized that Darren Aronofsky wasn't about to make that glossy kind of film, especially when you look at his track record. As an aside, this makes me really wonder what his version of and X-Men film is going to look like. But back to the matter at hand. The film was very dark and darkly comical, but also very disturbing. Natalie Portman gives a tremendous performance as Nina, the girl with all the talent in the world but no self-confidence. Every step forward she takes, something holds her back and this leads to some pretty crazy situations. The problem is, by the end of the movie you're not really sure how much was real and how much was in her mind. She sees things all around her that may or may not exist. Creatures in the mirror, a fingernail that is bloody, a bruise on her back. Are these just figments of her imagination? Or a girl hurting herself as a cry for help? The movie, for better or worse, doesn't answer those questions. Towards the end of the film it suddenly hit me that this wasn't the kind of movie that was going to give me an answer - I was going to have to decide for myself what happened. Which is kind of why I feel like this movie will be a critical favorite, but not appeal to a wider audience. I think mass audiences prefer and open and shut case of what the hell happened. There aren't many movies like this that end up making a lot of money, but they do tend to be movies that the critics really like. I think in the end I enjoyed it, but I was kind of hoping for a little bit more of a resolution.
Imagine if you will a different take on the movie The Sixth Sense. Let's say the movie played out exactly as we all know it did except the scene where Haley Joel Osment says to Bruce Willis "I see dead people" doesn't happen until the end of the movie. Let's say that was the final shot of the film and after that we don't see any of the explanation that follows Bruce's realization that he's dead. Would audiences have enjoyed the movie as much if you're left with "I see dead people" as the final image? Having the answer tacked on after Bruce realizes what's going on makes us feel like, yeah, OK that all makes sense now, I see where the movie is coming from. Having an open ending that could go either way? Not as appealing. And that's my issue with Black Swan - after watching for 100+ minutes, I'm still not sure what was real and what wasn't. And the final shot of the movie didn't help either because if it did actually happen, it makes almost no sense.
The performances were all great, from Portman to Mila Kunis who shines brightly as the girl with no past and an edge to her. Vincent Cassel was the director who was either a total ass or just a guy who really knows how to motivate his dancers. It was a great role that stepped right into the grey area between artist and ass. And Barbara Hershey was tremendous as Nina's overbearing mother who may actually know more about her daughter than anyone else does. Was she really overbearing? Or was she protecting a daughter she knew to be damaged? The direction was wonderful as well. The story of a ballerina isn't really something I would expect to like, but Aronofsky managed to bring me in and never let go. I never once felt bored or that the movie was going on too long. While I was somewhat confused by the end, I still found myself enjoying what I was seeing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked Black Swan but only to a point. I appreciated the writing, the directing and the acting, but I really wish the story wasn't so open ended. Yes, I could make up my own mind about what really happened but I don't pay good movie to think damn it, I pay good money for someone to tell me what to think.