Black Swan came out almost two months ago, so I have to assume if you were going to see it, you’d have seen it. It feels a little silly doing a review this far after the release, but I’d mainly just like to get a dialogue going. I feel like this movie warrants discussion, and I want a few outside opinions for a variety of reasons.
First of all, I was extremely hung over when I saw it. And whats worse, I hadn’t eaten anything other than an apple that day. My stomach really goes haywire these days if I don’t eat a decent breakfast. In high school and college I never ate breakfast. Even my first few years in the real world* I’d often go without. Now the second my stomach is empty it becomes a crippling malady. I’m confused by this change. It’s unsettling.
*You know, working for my uncle, spooney sales, medical studies. The real world.
The combination of my hangover, an empty stomach, and the fact that I’m grossed out easily (except by violence) really worked against me on this one. I had a tough time with several scenes. The finger-cutting and toe-stubbing in particular. Matty no likey. And the fact that I was oobie doobie ensured I’d be thinking too much about the scenes that disturbed me. All in all, it was a pretty miserable theater experience. That definitely affected my impression of the movie. I kept telling myself not to let it alter my opinion of the film, but how could it not? We see movies to have a good time, after all.
Another factor was my companion on this hang, who swore she had the movie totally figured out afterwards, and filled my addled brain with what may have been nonsense. She said the entire movie was about mind control. I’m not sure how accurate that is.
What was this movie really about? I have a feeling when asked that question Darren Aranofsky takes shelter in that land of mysteries directors love so well. Vague answers, winks, proliferation of theories. When a director treads that path I’m left to assume its a VERY calculated move. I simply can’t believe a good director would make a movie without knowing precisely what he/she wants to say. Is that cynical? Should I stop trying to define art? Don’t answer that. It was a stupid question.
I’m tempted to say this film was overrated, but I don’t want to be that guy. If a movie these days even hints at originality I try to award points for that. Black Swan is definitely original. I’ve never seen anything else remotely similar. And there is definitely something to be said for a movie about ballet that can appeal to male viewers. To take a decidedly feminine topic and make a gender neutral movie is no small feat.
One problem: Dreams, visions, and any type of false reality always strikes me as a bit of an easy way out. I want a director to be held accountable for each scene and its impact on the viewer. What Arrenofsky has essentially done is give himself carte blanch to use any startling image or event without being tied to its effect on a real plot. Because that part of the plot isn’t real. That feels cheap to me. Dream sequences and hallucinations almost always do.
I can’t say I loved the casting, either. Not bad necessarily, but inconsistent. Look, I’ve got nothing against Mila Kunis personally, but I’m just not ready to take her seriously as an actress. And I’m definitely inclined to root against someone who became an “it” girl (or boy) without actually doing anything good. Her success screams “I hired the most aggressive agent and publicist I could find and told them I was willing to do anything to be famous.” This is a snap-judgement. But seriously, the girl from That 70s Show in a potential oscar winner? How did that happen? What has she ever done well? They really should’ve stuck with the original plan and gone with Latifah here.
I’m also pretty sure Winona Ryder is a bad actress, while we’re on the subject. In fact, at times I’ve found her downright terrible. This wasn’t her worst effort, but she was an odd choice, to say the least.
Portman, on the other hand, definitely belongs in movies of this caliber. She’s very good, we all know that. And she definitely did a perfect job evincing sheltered, timid and alone. The viewer has no choice but to pity her almost right from the start. The stuff with her mom in particular was great. That was just an excellent character. Virtually all of my favorite scenes included her in some way (masturbation scene!). I felt like an entire movie could’ve been made just out of that relationship. Barbara Hershey is due a major tip-of-the-cap here. As is Vincent Cassel for his portrayal of Thomas, predatory choreographer extraordinaire. This truly was the part his face was born to play.
I’m awarding Black Swan points for plot, aesthetic, and suspense. But I still can’t shake the feeling that this film is riding a wave of praise it didn’t really earn. Am I off base here? Let’s talk about it. I realize this review is poorly written and irrelevant, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a discussion.
What think you?