McCoy on Movies: "Black Swan" Movie Review

McCoy on Movies: "Black Swan" Movie Review
It's one of the most talked about movies of the season, but is this new thriller a blockbuster or just a bust? See what our reviewer had to say about it here.
"Oh my are my eyes red ... Anyone got some Visine?!" Nina (Natalie Portman) takes center stage in Darren Aronofsky's psychological drama "Black Swan."


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder


WRITER: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin


DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky




THE PLOT: In case you haven't seen the trailer or heard all the awards season hype surrounding the film yet, "Black Swan" centers around Nina (Natalie Portman), a young ballerina living in New York City with her mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), who is a retired ballerina herself.


A good dancer who has yet to have her big break, Nina finds her life turned upside down once she is presented with a huge opportunity: taking the lead role in her company's upcoming production of "Swan Lake" as envisioned by artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel). This news comes to the chagrin of prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder). But she is not Nina's main concern.


For while Nina — as demure as she is graceful — is well-equipped to play the innocent White Swan, to become the Swan Queen (i.e. the lead role), she needs to embrace the cunning nature and sensuality it takes to portray the Black Swan. And newcomer Lily (Mila Kunis), who is seemingly everything Nina is not as both a dancer and a person, is perfect for the role.


But Nina, determined to land the role of a lifetime, is going to push herself to limits further than she ever imagined.


THE TAKE: I read a LOT about the movie prior to and after seeing it and have likewise thought a LOT about "Black Swan" in the week or so since I've seen it, trying to figure out the best way in which to articulate my feelings.


The conclusion I've come to is this: "Black Swan" is an extremely well-done, visually compelling piece of art by a director who fully engulfs his subject matter — that I don't ever need to see again.


As someone who owns Director Darren Aronofsky's breakthrough film "Requiem for a Dream" on DVD that also happens to be a big Kunis fan (admittedly not just for her acting), I was really looking forward to "Black Swan." (For the record, I enjoy the majority of Portman's work as well.)


That being said, "Black Swan" is not the type of film that's for everybody. It's one of those films I say is best suited for fans of "cinema" instead of "movies" or people that are easily shocked or are easily enthralled (the latter 40 minutes of the film providing this content).


Now, if you're about to skip down to the end of this write up and see my rating, I will try to explain the "WTF" reaction you are likely to have when you see it. The film is great artistically, visually and the acting, for the most part, is fairly commendable in regards to bringing the story to life. My problem with the film is that the entire film feels like, albeit a very well done one, an exercise in an unnecessary production about a woman essentially slipping into — well, I can't say what I want here — that would be giving too much of the movie away! (Just take a look at the photo above and you tell me what you think is happening.)


Let me be fair: Most movies, at their core, stem from simple stories, the twists and turns of which separate lackluster movies from stellar ones. In the case of "Black Swan," however, much of the twists and turns feel like shock value for the sake of trying to make the movie stand out. Sure, Nina is a naive, inexperienced girl who ends up on a self-awakening journey, but the way it is presented to you as her journey feels a bit "Isn't this riveting?" While there are several plot points one could make an argument for as being compelling elements of the film — the pursuit of perfection and the harm it can cause physically and/or mentally, the effect of trying to live up to the standards/expectations of one's parents, etc. — they just don't come together as a whole, or at least I suspect they will not for the majority of the film's viewers.


To use a more modern analogy, it's like the film wants each revelation to seem magical when instead it's really just Criss Angel's flashy showmanship. This, coupled with the commitment to each role by the film's cast, keeps the film from being boring — hence my grade below — but sleight-of-hand tricks only can do so much for those hoping for true magic.


PARTING SHOT: Much like ballet itself, "Black Swan" is one of those films that will either really connect with you on every artistic level of your being or simply make you say "Even though I can appreciate it on an artistic level, it's just not something I enjoy."


Which side of the line you fall on that journey, my friends, is a decision only you can ultimately make.











Credit: Niko Tavernise © Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved.

Tabari McCoy -

Tabari McCoy is Cincy Chic's movie critic. You can check out more of his work on his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @tabarimccoy


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