I am taking a bit of a break from the usual review format today and going to hit reflection mode. I have always understood that the statement in the title of this post is very true, yet I still find myself a victim of expectations. True, it happens a lot less regularly than it once did, and I can often find something in most films such that I spend an enjoyable 90-180 minutes. Yet anyone who read my Skyfall review would be aware, my biggest complaint is that the film did not feel like a James Bond film.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
Synopsis: The story of one ballerina’s goal to dance the lead in her company’s production of Black Swan. It follows the agonies a dancer can go to reach perfection, and how such ambitions can lead to great mental anguish.
A review by Film Nerd.
This film has perhaps already been seen by many, especially given the accolades it received at the most recent Academy Awards. I am sure there is still a sub-population out there that either did not have time to see it on its release, or that were waiting to enjoy it at their home cinema. So this review is for you, as that is exactly what I did. As such, I will try to keep various twists hidden, which will be very hard to do as it certainly limits the scope of what I can write here.
From early in the film, there is a large focus on the level of dedication required to be successful in the world of ballet. I will admit, though being able to appreciate the grace of ballet, and that it does have its own beauty, I am not a fan. This did not negatively affect my enjoyment of the movie, however. What is evident is that it is a career of extremes… extreme dedication, extreme flexibility, extreme balance, extreme focus, and yes, extreme diet. All these elements are introduced early on, introducing the circumstances under which Portman’s Nina Sayers begins to crack.
It doesn;’t help that a rival appears on the scene in the shape of Kunis’ Lily. Okay, let’s get the white elephant out of the room. The young male audience may only be interested in the lesbian tryst between the two stars. This is a shame, and misses the entire point of that particular scene, which when viewed by the psychology of the moment is more disturbing than it is erotic. Motifs of splintering mind are littered throughout the film from early on, and are even suggested by the above poster. The “intimate scene” between Nina and Lily becomes a more extreme form of this splintering.
There is no question that Portman’s performance is award worthy. It is further evidence that the only blip on her performance career to date (thank you Star Wars) was more likely die to a brilliant actress paired with a poor director rather than the opposite combination. She simply overshadows everyone else on-screen, and that is not to imply the supporting characters lack the skill to compete. Portman is just simply that good.
A dance movie this is not, but a drama with worthy comment, absolutely.
4 stars out of 5