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Movie Review: Black Swan

Occasionally, I pre-grade a movie before I see it. I think that I can guess how good it will be, and I have a feeling that it must be this good or this mediocre. Of course I realize that by the end of the film my opinion might be changed, and I'll be honest; it almost always is. With Black Swan I thought, 'This is going to be a B+ movie'. And as usual I was off a tad.

I probably don't have to explain the synopsis since a lot of people have seen this well before me. But I will anyway: Nina is our 28-year-old ballerina. She's a bit sexually repressed, a little childlike and maybe more than a little smothered by her mother (a creepy woman who dictates over Nina and fusses over her career like only a failed dancer can do). Nina is up for the part of the Swan Queen in Swan Lake after the Prima Ballerina (Winona Ryder) is forced out. Unfortunately, Nina is a fragile young woman and she comes off as so innocent and repressed that it's hard to imagine her as the Black Swan. She knows and we know that the director (Vincent Cassel) isn't overly impressed with her. Her audition doesn't go all that well, but...

Then she bites him and he casts her as the Swan Queen. Which reminds me; I should really bite more people, then I might get further.

Nina is, naturally, obsessed with the part, but as hard she seems to try to capture her Black Swan, she consistently fails. Along with this, she is convinced that a new arrival, Lily (Mila Kunis) is out to get her and nab the part for herself. It's hard to tell whether or not she really is because Nina has strong bouts of hallucinations, some of which are very obvious and others that appear real until they are suddenly taken back in an "I fooled you!" moment. Then there are some things that aren't explained and you can only guess.

It's a good story. Whether you care about ballet or not isn't really the point. Black Swan is supposed to be a psychological thriller, or that's what I assume based on the premise and execution. The problems are that (a) Nina is not a very likable character, (b) at a certain point it became so silly that I had trouble taking the movie seriously. Instead of being horrified by what was happening, I started laughing. Wrong reaction? And if I can't take a serious movie seriously, then how am I supposed to care about it?

There is also a good amount of sexual content. I have to say, watching a graphic lesbian sex scene is not very comfortable when you're sitting next to your mother. Neither are the scenes of masturbation. When the second one came on I said, "Oh look, another one." Although considering how repressed Nina is, especially since she lives with her mommy, I can see why these scenes are important to a degree. The lesbian scene would only have been necessary, however, had it actually had any impact on the story.

I do like the visuals, though, and the camerawork was nice. The dancing was also good, and Natalie Portman did a decent job, even though I don't think she's a great actress and she is very capable of annoying me. I won't get much into the whole Oscar thing and whether or not she did most of the dancing. I personally think Oscars are overrated and not as prestigious as they're made out to be, so it really doesn't matter to me that Natalie won for this.

As a whole, I just wasn't impressed with Black Swan. Good story, questionable execution.

My grade: C+


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