Feb 10, 2011

[Spoiler Alert] Best Picture Nominees #2: Black Swan

Of the films up for Best Picture, none is quite as whackadoodle as Black Swan. Though it starts off slow, it quickly builds to a frantic pace and doesn't let go until the final moments, the screen brightening to absolute white. Warning: Some language ahead NSFW
"You need to let go, Nina!  Be more like Lily and masturbate!
You can never be Black Swan unless you let go"
Like all the best picture nominees this year, the cast is pretty outstanding. Mila Kunis,
who was always surprisingly likable in That 70's Show, is wonderful as the free spirit Lily, crashing through scenes with reckless abandon. Winona Ryder is perfection, giving a sad, lonely performance as a past-her-prime performer ousted from the stage. Simultaneously, Ryder proves that she is not one of those performers herself - her brilliance can not be dampened. And, of course, there is Natalie Portman, giving a wonderful performance as Nina, a frail girl so molded by ballet and those around her that she slowly becomes consumed by her own delusions. Portman is a strange thing. Often in films she retreats into the wallpaper, so easily forgettable.  Other times, she uses her innate frailty to give powerful performances in films like The Professional, Closer, and V for Vendetta. Here is no exception. Nina is at once completely childlike and vicious, bruising like a peach and attacking like a peach pit that gets lodged in your throat. Nina is mostly a danger to herself in the film, but that makes it all the more interesting to watch, her masochistic, sexual frustrations flying forth (sorry for the bird pun) and damaging everything around her.

Don't Look Behind You!
There are some sour notes to the film. Vincent Cassel is given possibly the worst dialogue imaginable. Every line of dialogue he has deals with the Black Swan vs. the White Swan, and the differences between perfection and a good performance. Even his apartment and office are designed in completely black and white, as if his entire life revolves around one concept, which it seemingly does. In a film as masterfully layered as this, it's a shame to see a character be so one-note.

Run Away!!!
The film often has moments of greatness, and the well-integrated use of CGI on such a small budget is impressive. Still, the film is bogged down by somewhat clunky dialogue, a sexual element that either needs to be heightened to a more 'campy' degree or lessened, and an ambiguity that almost seems lazy rather than arty. It's a fun B-movie and an interesting and devastating character study. Probably not Best Picture.

Best Picture: No
Good Movie: Yes
Score: 8/10
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