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Black Swan More at IMDbPro »

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Unstable ballerina loses grip on reality and becomes The Black Swan...

Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
12 May 2011

It's easy to see that Darren Aronofsky was influenced by the classic THE RED SHOES ('48), except that the '48 film did not telegraph its tragic ending which came as somewhat of an abrupt surprise. On the other hand, BLACK SWAN telegraphs its outcome from Scene One, the major fault of the film which ends on an extremely downbeat note.

The highlight of BLACK SWAN is the presentation of the ballet music and all of the behind-the-scenes tension brought on by the determination of ballet maestro VINCENT CASSEL to find a dancer who can be both The White Swan and The Black Swan with equal expertise.

He is impressed by NATALIE PORTMAN's skill as The White Swan but tells her she must experience life and love to the utmost in order to provide the proper passion for her darker side as the evil swan. What's hard to believe is that he doesn't spot the flaws in her personality that make her unable to come to grips with the demands of the ballet world. However, his performance is excellent, as is MILA KUNIS as her cunning rival.

Portman's mother (BARBARA HERSHEY) seems to be as neurotic as her unstable daughter in a Mommie Dearest sort of way. Their scenes together amp up what we know is bound to be a fatalistic end to an unhappy story. As the rival ballerina, MILA KUNIS provides plenty of jealousy for Portman, already unnerved by the demands that Cassel places on her emoting. Inevitably, Portman is pushed over the edge by all of her hallucinations and insecurities until she falls into a pit of darkness from which there is no escape.

Portman's skill as an actress is evident, overcoming any objections some might have to the heavy use of a body double for the difficult ballet moves. She gives her character dimension and pity, despite the unpleasant aspects of the character's irritating personality.

Worth a look for the performances alone, but beware that the dark side looms large in just about every scene which some might find too depressing for their taste and the sexual content is close to pornographic at times.

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16 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Black Swan Bleak on More Than One level

Author: LadyLiberty from
30 January 2011

Black Swan has garnered more than a few glowing reviews and has collected a list of awards nominations to match (among others, the Golden Globes will consider Natalie Portman as Best Actress, Mila Kunis as Best Supporting Actress, Darren Aronofsky as Best Director, and the film itself as Best Drama). I made it my mission in life to see it before the awards ceremonies started. It could be that my expectations were too high, but I was frankly not as impressed by Black Swan as many critics seem to be.

Black Swan is a reference to the white Swan Queen's opposite in the famous ballet, Swan Lake. Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a technically brilliant dancer in a New York ballet company who desperately wants to snag the dual role. The problem? The dance company's director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) tells her she's the perfect Swan Queen, but that she lacks the passion and emotional abandon of her Black Swan twin.

The pressure on Nina to prove the director wrong is considerable. Her mother (Barbara Hershey)—a retired ballerina herself—exerts considerable control over her daughter in the guise of kindness and support. The company's aging prima ballerina (Winona Ryder) is volatile and dramatic, particularly when she learns she's soon to be giving her final performance before a retirement that isn't her idea. And a new dancer from San Francisco (Lily, played by Mila Kunis), quickly becomes both Nina's friend and bitter rival.

Lily, very much a free spirit, spreads her attitude wherever she goes and Nina needs it more than most. Thomas, meanwhile, is inclined to use any means necessary to inspire the performance he wants out of her. As Nina's life spins beyond her ability to control, her emotions and her sanity both begin to wear thin. But her focus on dance becomes ever more laser-like as she determines that nothing will stop her from being the perfect ballerina.

Natalie Portman reportedly lost some 20 pounds from her already tiny frame to more authentically portray a dedicated dancer. She and Kunis alike spent months studying ballet as well. Their efforts show. While a few more complicated maneuvers were performed by doubles, much of what you see on screen is really done by the actors themselves. Their acting, too, is superlative. Vincent Cassel is also good, but Barbara Hershey is brilliant as the overbearing mother whose demands for perfection set Nina on her course from childhood. Kudos, too, to Winona Ryder. Her role is small, but it's memorable.

Director Darren Aronofsky, perhaps best known for his previous award-winning film The Wrestler, does a credible job here. There are interesting edits and camera effects everywhere, and he does seem to know well how to elicit a stellar performance from his cast. I'm not a ballet fan, so I can't vouch for the authenticity of the dancing here, but it certainly looked lovely on screen and was a nice counterpoint to some of the seamier visions interspersed.

BOTTOM LINE Despite the obvious quality of the crafting of Black Swan, I didn't really like it all that much. That may be because there were so many moments where the sheer brilliance of the acting or some technical aspect in the making of the scene actually overshadowed the story itself. I found myself all too conscious of those things rather than paying attention to what was really going on. In many ways, Black Swan was the proverbial "too much of a good thing." I can't fault those who claim Black Swan is a well-made movie. I just can't pretend that I personally enjoyed it very much. The quality of filmmaking alone gave Black Swan its six stars. Whether or not my interest held up throughout garnered considerably less.


FAMILY SUITABILITY Black Swan is rated R for "strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use." All of those cautions are entirely too real. Black Swan is not a movie for children, or even for young teens. An R rating is entirely appropriate, and movie-goers should take note. I'd add that, while I wasn't particularly happy with my movie-going experience, I can't deny that there are reasons to see Black Swan, not least among them some very strong performances indeed.

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18 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Campy, Corny, Juvenile. Somewhat entertaining.

Author: jcox713 from United States
5 February 2011

I'm giving this one star in order to try to correctly reduce the disingenuous inflated rating IMDb of 8.6. I now firmly believe that there are focused campaigns out there determined in giving cruddy movies stellar reviews. These reviewers are people directly involved in the making of the movie and people who will directly profit from the movie's success. Shoot, If I were involved in making a movie, I would go on IMDb and write a great review too. I mean, Why not? Get enough people to write a review and voila, you have an instant "hit" on your hands with an IMDb 8.6 positive user rating.

It happened with The Hurt Locker and it has happened with Black Swan. This movie is average, the acting is good but not great. The character development is nil, the story is 2 dimensional, flat, and wholly soap opera-esque. I was entertained, and did not find myself bored. But in no way was I ever "wowed" with this film. Disgusted? Yes. Grossed out? Yes. Turned on? Yes - several steamy scenes. Impressed. No way. Save your money. Rent on Netflix.

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19 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Black swan song

Author: Justin Stokes from Cleburne, TX
22 December 2010

Darren Aronofsky is a filmmaker who, over the course of five films, has thoroughly explored the various ways in which people can be consumed when their passions become self-destructive obsessions. It seems to be a bit of an obsession in and of itself for Aronofsky, and frankly, I've been with him every step of the way. The best cinema is the kind that makes you feel something, which Aronofsky's work does in spades. Taking up residence in the darkest recesses of the human psyche is no picnic.

Nina Sayers has toiled for years and years in Thomas Leroy's New York ballet company. Having fallen on hard times, Leroy exiles his lead dancer and hopes that a fresh face in the company's upcoming version of "Swan Lake" will renew interest and revenue. Nina believes that she has what it takes to tackle the role of Swan Queen, and while Thomas chooses her for the part, he is adamant about her being able to nail both the pure innocence of the White Swan and the dark, sultry essence of the Black Swan. He doesn't feel that she is yet capable of pulling off the latter, but he suspects that she has the ability bottled up inside. Nina, ever the perfectionist, just needs to let herself go and perhaps explore her sexuality. Unfortunately, she's had to deal with an overbearing mother who has sheltered her to the point of psychological damage. Experiencing what she needs to in order to embody the Black Swan, combined with the pressure of the role and the paranoia over new girl, Lily, possibly being after her spot, may just push Nina over the edge.

"Black Swan" has been cited as a companion piece to "The Wrestler", and in many ways, it is. They even share similar instances of a pseudo-documentary shooting style. However, whereas the latter utilized such a style to create a heightened sense of realism, "Black Swan" takes the approach and creates a claustrophobic hell akin to something like Polanski's "The Tenant". It's a disorienting portrait of the madness that infects many who possess the desire to create art. Nina's sanity is in question early on, and from there, we are kept on our toes in relation to what is hallucinated and what is real. Speaking of being kept on one's toes, we get an up close look at how hard ballet is on the human body. As if the psychological turmoil wasn't enough for poor Nina, the physical toll is just as prominent.

As the ballerina seeking the pinnacle of perfection, Natalie Portman achieves that which her character so desperately desires. Her performance is a milestone, not only in her career, but in acting, period. Every ounce of praise directed toward her is richly deserved. Nina goes through a ringer of emotional changes, be it the sweet, delicate girl she starts out as, the rebellious grown-up Lily unleashes in her or the manic frenzy she's reduced to when things really get out of hand. Portman never misses a beat. When I first heard that Mila Kunis had been cast as Lily, I wasn't exactly thrilled. I'm happy to say that I was wrong about her, as she is terrific here. She made me forget all about her role on "That 70's Show". Vincent Cassel is also fantastic as Thomas Leroy, and his relationship with Nina is one of the film's strongest aspects. He had serious doubts about her, but he believed in her all the same. Enough so that he put his doubts aside and took the biggest possible risk on her. Barbara Hershey is unnerving as Nina's overprotective mother, and Winona Ryder makes the most of her brief role as Beth, the aging star whom Nina replaces.

Matthew Libatique's cinematography is beautifully realized. Combining the raw grittiness of the pseudo-documentary material with the nightmarish imagery of Nina's hallucinations and the elegance of the ballet, the film is a joy to behold. Clint Mansell's music, complete with elements from "Swan Lake", is also amazing, just as much a character as any breathing person on screen. I was disappointed that Mansell didn't have more of a presence in "The Wrestler", so I was happy to have him back in full force with "Black Swan".

Aronofsky is my favorite director to come along in the last 20 years or so. "Pi" was a solid debut, "Requiem for a Dream" is an utter masterpiece (still my favorite film in general), "The Fountain" is an underrated gem and "The Wrestler" is a strong character study. I'm pleased, but not surprised, to say that "Black Swan" is another film that further solidifies his position as a master filmmaker. As for Portman, she doesn't need the "Best Actress" Oscar to solidify how great she is. Besides, after Sandra Bullock "won" last year, they'll obviously give that award to anybody.

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14 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Pretentious Drivel

Author: James Smith from Australia
31 December 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was looking forward to this film, and in particular, to see if Natalie Portman had finally learned to act.

After all, in my humble opinion, herself and Hayden Christensen's lack of acting had fatally sabotaged the Star Wars Prequels, yet Mr Christensen appears to have learned from his mistakes, and in recent films, developed into a real actor.

Alas, casting Ms Portman into a role that required little speaking, may have seemed like a good idea, but her inability to act, and the woeful script means there is no way this movie was going to float! Except, that is, for those people that will watch someone filming grass grow, with a gratuitous sex scene thrown in here and there, and then rush to IMDb to write a review telling the world how brilliant the film is! Isn't it amazing that the majority of people aren't interested in watching high end ballet, yet in this film, we are asked to watch someone "pretend" to be a ballerina for over an hour and more.

It's like getting Larry Parkes, in "The Jolson Story", singing himself instead of miming to Joslon, with most of the audience not liking Jolson's music anyway! That's what happens here.

The script is terrible, plodding along, slapping us in the face now and then with the bleeding obvious, and even endowing the protagonist with ESP - when she guesses that our Heroine had a "wet dream" about her. I laughed during the fight scene when I guessed I should have been upset, and ended up shaking my head a lot at the poor attempt at "gritty" camera work, which just made me motion sick.

The only reason I endured watching this film past ten minutes was because my daughter wanted to see it. Otherwise, I wouldn't have even rated it worth writing this review.

This movie belongs at the bottom of Swan Lake.

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16 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Black Swamp

Author: francois-demers from Kyiv, Ukraine
2 April 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A virginal ingénue must struggle against an evil force while her performing career, her sanity, even her life may be at stake. Her decision to confront or obey an ambiguous father figure, fight or flee a competitor… all will play a key part but her ultimate fate will be decided by her choices about herself. Meanwhile, of course the show must go on.

From this springboard, you can either see a great horror film about isolation and despair or an entertaining Hollywood musical with a hint of the horror genre. It depends on whether you choose to see the original (1925) or most recent (2004) Phantom of the Opera.

Black Swan, with an identical baseline, will either give you a fit of the giggles or dry heaves. If you already saw it, I offer my condolences. If you liked it, do not read on because I am going to massacre it without one gram of mercy.

First, credit where credit is due: one artist worthy of the name contributed to this film. Pyotr Tchaikovsky composed some of the music. Despite the heavily-stacked odds, Ryder and Cassel come out with their acting credentials only slightly bruised.

Darren Aronofsky directs Black Swan with the empathy and subtlety of a traffic cop while using the camera as a machine gun. By the time he is done, and he takes his time, everyone is either wounded or dead.

One salient example: Mila Kunis, who plays the evil twin, has black wings tattooed on her back. Get it? Get it? As to Natalie Portman, she was given cue cards listing allowed facial expressions, numbered from one to five. Spoiler: expression number two (frowning, mouth open) is the one with the Academy Award.

Sex, or lack thereof, is central to the character's fate, both professionally and psychologically. Either she did it or not, will or will not, how and with whom, gay or straight… will get her the role, make her complete, turn her to the Dark Side of the Force, or solve the paradoxes of quantum physics.

Aranofsky truly shines here. Portman masturbates in front of a roomful of pink stuffed bunnies (and her sleeping mummy); gets her crotch grabbed by her employer during an insightful lesson on the art of seduction; and dreams that Mila Kunis does sex to her.

I struggled a lot with the lesbian scene and finally settled for "does sex to her" as most fitting. Both actresses kiss as if they found each other's breath repulsive, underwear gets pulled, Kunis does sex to Portman. Enjoy.

For sensuality and passion, go to my original comparison and watch the seduction scene in The Phantom of the Opera (Joel Schumacher, 2004). There is practically no skin exposed, half of what there is urgently needs a dermatologist, but it is still infinitely more erotic. The difference, of course, is that Schumacher is a real director, Butler is competent, and Rossum a talented actress.

Which brings us to the central mystery of Black Swan: where does that Academy Award for best actress come from? Portman gives us the answer in her last line: "I was perfect." No you were not! In fact, you look more alive and engaging on the Miss Dior posters, despite the fact you do not move or speak. Or possibly because…

Black Swan is sometimes promoted as a horror film. It is the only honest part of the hype: it is indeed horrible.

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17 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Fan of Ballet

Author: ikica86 from Serbia
16 January 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I don't understand all the fuss about this movie.With danger of not being 'smart' or 'artistic' enough I have to say that I didn't like it.I've watched it tonight and I was bored mostly trough entire thing.It felt like it was a movie about psychotic girl whose obsessed mother isn't giving her enough intimate space to masturbate.Because all she apparently needs,for a perfect performance,is to touch herself or take ecstasy.I wanted to shout to the Director 'Why the hell don't you get another dancer for the Black Swan!'and 'Stop molesting that girl!'.Oh yeah,but then we won't have a movie.Like one review said it is a movie about a girl,who is from a start a nerve rack and the play is just an excuse to unleash her insanity.About a dancer,who is played by Mila Kunis I haven't got much to say because director until the end doesn't explain her character.Is she simple a friendly girl,evil backstabbing bitch or just a trigger for hallucinations.All I have to say about her is that she wears a really nice underwear and stockings.Also the constant pointing out between black and white really bothers my intelligence.I get it,without the constant white and black clothes and the tattoo of the black wings.I gave it a four only because of the costumes,make up,music and because I hope that this movie hasn't given me a trauma about swans and ballet :)

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20 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Well Directed But Let Down By Frustrating Story Telling

Author: Theo Robertson from Isle Of Bute, Scotland
30 January 2011

Black swan by Darran Aronofsky continues the director's body that will split audiences and critics to two extreme camps . . Certainly those who thought REQUIEM FOR A DREAM was an unsung masterpiece will probably have a higher opinion of it since SWAN shows Aronofsky's influences that are as diverse as Cronenberg's work from the 1970s and German expressionist cinema

This is not to say that SWAN is a horror film per se and this is the fundamental problem - the audience are continually being led up a Lovecraftian garden path by screenwriters Heinz , Hayman and McLaughlin where things seem metaphysical rather than psychological . Things happen that are never made clear as to why they're happening and this culminates in the final scene which does ruin the film to a large extent . It should also be remembered that REQUIEM was effectively a modern day expressionistic horror film where as this movie isn't . It's more in the vein of a sexual Heart Of Darkness set against the background of ballet

That said Aronofsky isn't too interested in destinations , he's concentrating on the journey and it 's a journey that is compelling for the most part . Portman is a certainty for Best Actress at the Oscars but Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel are both equally memorable in their supporting roles . Like Aronofsky's previous movies the technical aspects such as editing and cinematography are superb but you're left thinking that the more prestigious prize ceremonies will give out their awards to films that are more audience friendly . But this is isn't a criticism of Aronofsky who is just about the most interesting and original director working today and one hopes never to see him compromise his style for the mainstream

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful, tragic, haunting and nightmarish

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
13 April 2011

I personally do not think this movie the best movie of 2010, I did prefer The King's Speech and The Social Network. But overall, Black Swan is a very, very good film.

Albeit one with cracks. While the film succeeds as a character study, with a compelling lead character, there are some occasional logic and originality lapses, not in the script though as the script is very original that still holds the level of intensity in the slower parts, and with exception of Nina and perhaps Lily some of the characters could have done with more depth.

Those flaws aside, I loved it. But I can understand why people mayn't like it, I especially have a good friend who found it ham-fisted and found it left a bad taste in her mouth, it is often very adult and graphic with some sexual content. Anyone expecting Swan Lake are better off finding a video production or buying a ticket to somewhere like the Royal Ballet, this is not Swan Lake but a melodramatic and psychological character study revolving around a ballerina and the production of that particular ballet.

I remember reading that Darcy Bussell(who I respect) criticised the movie for an inaccurate portrayal of ballerinas or somewhat. I am not saying she is wrong, but I think it depends on the ballerina.

Even with any problems the film has, it is beautiful, tragic, haunting and nightmarish not to mention somewhat thought-provoking. The camera work with its contrasting black and whites to create contrasting moods is great, complete with stunning costumes, scenery and sets. The choreography is good and you do feel the sweat that the performers exude when performing, but I would have liked more close-ups of it perhaps.

The music is haunting and melancholic and the snippets of the Tchaikovsky ballet that you hear throughout are a delight to hear, but again it could have been more, and the finale is dark and exhilarating. The acting is mostly very good. Vincent Cassel is appropriately slimy, Barbara Hershey is terrific as the controlling mother and Mila Kunis is surprisingly wonderful in her meatiest role yet. But what made Black Swan are Darren Aranofsky's bravura direction and the mesmerising titular performance of Natalie Portman.

In conclusion, a very good film. 9/10 Bethany Cox

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

"Scream" if you're feeling pretentious

Author: krisrox from Netherlands
16 April 2011

Like "Requiem for a Dream", also by Darren Aronofsky, "Black Swan" is superficial entertainment masquerading as profound psychological analysis. It's stylish, it has the kind of "scary" effects that belong in a teen slasher movie, it is often gross, and it doesn't go anywhere. Which would be okay, if this were an actual teen slasher movie. But it isn't. The Black Swan is humorless and pretentious, and to make matters worse, it's intellectually dishonest. Only a very cynical director would use symptoms of auto-mutilation, anorexia and schizophrenia haphazardly as "devices" to freak out an audience. (Not to mention the mandatory lesbian sex scene!)

Portman, an actress I've always considered to be somewhat of a quality assurance, delivers her worst role here, looking flat and freaked out for 100 minutes. High-stakes ballet is a stressful environment, but every great performer loses that stress on stage. Not the Portman character. She gets the main role without any hint she can handle it. Or was it all supposed to be one big hallucination?

I guess I should draw my own conclusions: I'm not a fan of Aronofsky. I predict future generations will forget the hype and will consider this movie one of the weaker "landmark" movies of the '10s.

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