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Review: 'Black Swan' will make you squirm

December 3, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
"Black Swan" is one of those end-of-the-year movies that has the industry talking.

Director Darren Aronfsky, who last garnered praise directing Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei to Oscar nominations for "The Wrestler," is the man behind the film. And his star this time out, Natalie Portman, may be heading down the same path.

"Black Swan" takes us into the beautiful world of ballet, where something ugly is going on. Portman plays a ballerina finally getting her big break in a New York production of "Swan Lake." But her joy doesn't last long because winning the part may have her losing her mind.

Portman, you could say, is "on point" with this performance. She is so fragile that, at times, you wonder if she's just going to break.

Barbara Hershey plays her either very loving or very controlling mother -- maybe both. The more Portman's character falls apart, the more you see her mother differently and that makes for fascinating viewing.

Everything starts coming at you with two points of view: did that just happen or is it all in the ballerina's mind?

Does Vincent Cassel, who plays the ballet's director, want her to succeed or is he ready to replace her? And with an absolute "All About Eve" feeling, does Mila Kunis, who plays a free-spirited ballerina, want her friendship or does she just want her job? Kunis is brash and believable in both scenarios.

"Black Swan" plays out in a sometimes uncomfortable, disturbing way. I'm used to seeing just awful onscreen murders, so why is it so hard to look at a split toenail or skin being peeled back? I don't know, but it is!

In that regard, "Black Swan" is sure to ruffle feathers. It makes you squirm, sometimes just for its psychological storyline. You want this character Portman plays to succeed, and it may pain you as you see her struggle.

In the back of your mind, you may be thinking, "remember, this is a Darren Aronfsky film" so you know there's no guarantee of a happy ending.

The more I stepped away from this movie, the more I appreciated it.

It's complex and almost interactive, making you form opinions of what's real and what's not in this young woman's journey, and that is sure to prompt discussion.

This is not an easy movie, but it's a strong one. Don't go if you're looking for a sweet ballet film because there's nothing sweet about this.

That said, I recommend "Black Swan," a psychological thriller twirling with tension.


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