Thursday, June 23, 2011

Black Swan (2010)

It Wasn't "Perfect"....

- The 2010 film award season saw Black Swan plucking up many an award nomination and, while not being a total goose egg itself, the film was worth a grand total of only one of those award nods.

Natalie Portman's performance of Nina Sayers, a ballerina who begins to lose her mind trying (as she is specifically told) to lose herself into the part of the Black Swan for an off-beat interpretation of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," has been winning the vast majority of the awards for Black Swan - and for good reason: she is the only aspect of the film that deserves any form of high praise or awards. The film calls on Portman to play a couple of different versions of one character and she convincingly rises to the challenge; but what is most impressive about Portman's performance is the way that she portrays Nina's constantly evolving emotional state in a very tangible way. The high skill required to play the role of Nina is quite apparent and Portman's performance is very unique; subsequently, she carries the film - while on her tippy toes.

Beyond Portman's great individual acting effort, I think that the film offers little of value. Director Darren Aronofsky successfully creates suspense (most of the time) but his stylistic choices leave much to be desired. I was impressed with the way that the film uses CGI effects as a part of its visual symbolism, however Black Swan on the whole is just another one of these modern films that tries too hard to look like an off-beat Indy flick. I, for one, am fed up with the overuse of the contemporary hand-held camera shots in film in general and there is a particular over-reliance on the technique in this movie. Perhaps the overuse of mobile hand-held shots was employed to make up for the bland framing choices? For such a potentially interesting character and story, Black Swan is not particularly striking or unique on a visual scale.

But the characters and story end up not particularly interesting either - and not necessarily due to Aronofsky. None of the characters are in any way relatable or likable on paper. While Portman's individual performance of Nina is good, the character herself is far too awkward for the audience to be able to fully relate – or to even enjoy watching.

No one who is a part of the supporting cast helps out either. Vincent Cassel (as the self-imposing director), Barbara Hershey (as Nina's broken mother), and Winona Ryder (as the washed-up recently fired has-been) are really uninspired in their roles as characters we have seen time and time again. Mila Kunis is also not as impressive as she is touted to be here in Black Swan. Her performance is good but has really been over-praised; probably because the heavy-weights on her job résumé are a supporting role on "That 70s Show" and lesser voice-over work for "Family Guy" and the fact that she shows that she can at least *do* the kind of dramatic acting here in Black Swan has sort of carried people away a bit too far.

A great individual performance from Natalie Portman and a couple of other admirable elements are not, in and of themselves, enough to make Black Swan a great overall film. Black Swan is in fact an incredibly overrated film, in my view, when considering its place in the 2010 film awards season (specifically its Best Picture Oscar nomination). Packed full of gimmicks – freaky imaging, fashionable but shallow Indy style, throw-away lesbian scene, etc. – and lacking material for the viewer to really sink their teeth into, Black Swan offers little to spark the imagination, to entertain, or to appreciate.

CBC Rating: 6/10

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