The Black Swan – A Belated Review

Went to see the Black Swan finally. That’s why I’m taking a stab at this belated review.

Back in December of 2010, Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic, had this to say about the Black Swan:

Black Swan

You won’t be having a lot of fun at “Black Swan,” but the less seriously you take this wildly melodramatic, unashamedly pulpy look at the blood sport that is New York City ballet, the better your chances are of enjoying yourself even a little.

This tale of feathered ambition starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis as dueling ballerinas is not just any kind of trash, it’s high-art trash, a kind of “When Tutu Goes Psycho” that so prizes hysteria over sanity that it’s worth your life to tell when its characters are hallucinating and when they’re not.

What is wrong with unashamedly pulpy, high-art trash? It’s a rollicking good time and certainly better than trailer trash.

I liked the Black Swan. Had my doubts at first. There are parts that made me cringe and slide down in my seat. I spilled my popcorn. Mr. Husband even liked it, but added a disclaimer that it was “right up my alley.” I guess he get’s to distance himself this time. Fair enough, he only went because I begged him. It’s hard to say why I liked it, but so what. Yes, “Tutu did go Psycho.” But that is an over simplification. May as well describe the Dirty Dozen as “some guys in prison camp who forgot to shower.” Sort of missing the point.

I lived in the ballet world in my 20s. It can be just that hard. The movie was a little melodromatic in this aspect, but not by much. Don’t choke guys, but in some ways ballet is similar to football. I hear you rolling your eyes but listen to me dammit!

As a  dancer you must be disciplined, determined and possess all of your marbles or you are a flash in the pan. Forgotten tomorrow.  Or over the edge, as in Black Swan. It’s physically grueling. You love it, but there is pain and injuries, sometimes serious, involved. At any moment your career can go up in smoke. One misstep, a team-mate fails to watch your back for one’s over. Ballet is brutally competitive. Unless you climb to the top there is very little money in it. By age 30 you’re “old.”

Art critics (arm-chair quarterbacks) sit around and discuss your form (stats) like you were a side of beef hanging off a meat hook. Unlike football,  you can not wear cleats, padding, or a helmet. You job is to run across the stage wearing basically nothing but a nightey, an itchy tutu, and 2 chunks of wood tied to your feet with pretty pink ribbons.  You hurl yourself into the air and into the waiting arms of your partner. You can only hope he is paying attention. If he catches you, he then to hauls you around the stage triumphantly. Cymbals crash and the music reaches a crescendo while you smile and pretend you’re not having a heart attack. Ah, what a life. I miss it.

The relationship between Nina (Natalie Portman) and her mother is obviously deeply troubled. I won’t get into it here. A heart breaking tale of “no matter how perfect I am I can never please…mother, father, professor.” Throw a girl with a wounded psyche into a snake pit that requires nerves of steel and a self-confidence of granite and it’s a recipe for disaster. Nina’s gradual metamorphosis from the White Swan to the Black Swan is dark, breath-taking, frightening. Portman’s portrayal of a young women struggling to come to grips with her dark side and loosing her grip on reality in the process was… I don’t know how to describe it other than…woah. I have a whole new respect for her skills as an actress.

The Black Swan, if you have not seen it yet, is a movie that you will either love or hate.

3 responses

  1. I’ve heard that critics in the UK have slated it because Natalie doesn’t do all of the ballet. Hah! if they cast someone who could then the acting would be blooming awful and they would criticise the acting! With this kind of film you can never please everyone and I certainly can’t wait to see it as i’m a huge NP fan!

  2. The nerve!!! Intelligent beautiful women make my day.

  3. I’ll have to put this movie on my to do list.Did you know that Natalie Portman went to Harvard AND she had the nerve to graduate?!What a smart cookie.

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