Black Swan

10 Sep

By josh

What was that dance movie from a few years back…Stomp the Yard? Where a street dancer joins a stomp crew to avenge his brother’s death? Or Flashdance, where a female steel worker by day tries desperately to become an exotic dancer by night? Or Footloose, where a rowdy teen from Chicago tries to overthrow a buttoned-up country town’s prudish ways with the undeniable power of dancing? Well, I don’t think this is going to be one of those movies. Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s new psychological thriller about ballet(??!!) seems to be anything but a feel good dance flick. In fact, I’d say I’m a bit frightened about two-stepping after watching the new trailer for this, the latest of Aronofsky’s mindbenders.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the dance studio. A clip that opens innocently enough with the story of a rising ballet star (Natalie Portman) who lands the role of a lifetime as the “Queen of the Swans” in Swan Lake – probably the only ballet you’ve even heard of – it quickly turns black, as we see the cutthroat world of competitive ballet disintegrate into a psychological freak out, that may or may not end with Portman’s character turning into a real swan. Mila Kunis plays the possibly jealous understudy, but who may be the real antagonist is Portman herself, as we see her mirror image literally turn on her while the voice over states “the only person standing in your way is you.” Portman goes into a freak out that features moving walls, growing paranoia around Kunis, some bed grinding and mirror smashing, and culminates in her screaming that the sweet little girl we once knew is “gone.” But what’s most unnerving are the bruises and scrapes that begin to show all over Portman’s body, and in the last scene we see her pull a black quill tip from her shoulder, staring at it with blood-red eyes, thus completing her transformation?

If you were expecting anything less from Aronofsky, the director who gave us Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler, then you haven’t been paying attention. Especially since the director rose to prominence based off Pi, his movie about a paranoid mathematician with headaches and hallucinations – far from ordinary. Here we get the story of two competing ballet dancers that seem to fall for the same instructor, Vincent Cassel, that could’ve easily been written off as Single White Female meets Singin’ in the Rain. But it’s Aronofsky, and what we get is something closer to Persona, Ingmar Bergman’s classic psychosis about an ailing actress whose personality begins to meld with her live-in nurse. There must be something about fame and being in the public eye that just breeds paranoia and personality disorders (we wouldn’t know).

The headaches that come with the highly competitive world of show business, and the maddening pressure that builds when love and being the best collide – that we can see would drown a person in paranoia. But what’s up with the bruises and scratches that develop, and that quill and those red eyes?! We clearly see she has made the full transformation, as she appears in full dress make-up for opening night, and her unstoppable desire for the role has changed her into a cold hard crazy person. But does she really change into a swan at the end? Or is it all in her mind? And why haven’t we even mentioned this yet – the super steamy kiss between Portman and Kunis?! The bomb that got the fanboys all atwitter when that nugget got leaked. We see Kunis walking her cute little fingers across Portman’s sleeping lap in the backseat of a cab, the kiss, a bed grinding scene, and a club shot where Kunis, I swear, is channeling Roxy from Basic Instinct. Mark my words, once Kunis locks lips with Portman, it’s the beginning of the end for her character – keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

So, will it suck?

No. If you told me that there was a new movie about competing dancers who fight over the same man while vying for the top spot, and break off to have a steamy lesbian scene along the way, I would’ve said “No thanks; I’ve already seen Showgirls.” But despite Aronofsky’s disturbing fetish for Joe Eszterhas-Paul Verhoeven films, it’s the parallel lines of literal and figurative transformation that’s gripping here. We trust Aronofsky as a director, and were completely on-board when it was rumored he would be helming the Batman reboot. His dark style and psychological deftness have garnered him a well –earned reputation, and yes, while the movie may appear to be about the ballet, we expect Aronofsky’s delicate precision behind the camera to be the real dance here. Plus Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis kiss.

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4 Responses to “Black Swan”

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  1. News from the “No Duh” file: Christopher Nolan announces he will direct third and final Batman film « Will It Suck? - September 30, 2010

    […] a story with Batman Begins writer David S. Goyer, with rumors circulating that Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Matt Reeves (Let Me In), Tony Scott (Enemy of the State) and Zack Snyder (Watchmen) possibly […]

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  2. In Theaters This Weekend: First week of December fails to provide any of that Christmas cheer « Will It Suck? - December 4, 2010

    […] to live in one of those cosmopolitan cities that get movies out in limited release, check out Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s new film about the backstabbing world of big-time ballet. Don’t write this […]

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  3. In Theaters This Weekend: First week of December fails to provide any of that holiday cheer « Will It Suck? - December 4, 2010

    […] to live in one of those cosmopolitan cities that get movies out in limited release, check out Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s new film about the backstabbing world of big-time ballet. Don’t write this […]

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  4. Black Swan (Post Mortem) « Will It Suck? - December 10, 2010

    […] been a long time waiting in the wings, but Black Swan finally made it to theaters, and boy was it strange trip. Ever since the trailer dropped, […]

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