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Black Swan movie poster

Black Swan: Movie Review

Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rated: R
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
Released by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

In Short: Despite a slow start, this intense psychological drama set in the cut-throat environment of world-class ballet eventually gets rolling, with disturbing results.

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Release the Evil Twin

Director Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler”) takes us into the competitive world of ballet with his twisted psychological thriller, “Black Swan,” starring Natalie Portman as Nina, one of the New York City Ballet’s most talented ballerinas. She pushes herself relentlessly in her maniacal drive to the top, as does her slightly loony mother (Barbara Hershey), an ex-ballerina herself. There’s the handsome-yet-cruel artistic director (Vincent Cassel), the aging prima ballerina (Winona Ryder) and the sexy newcomer (Mila Kunis). Sounds like a movie you’ve perhaps snored through before? Well, it is, at least for the first hour or so.

Will our heroine take over from the older dancer and win the role of Odette, the Swan Queen in the coming production of “Swan Lake”? Will she succumb to the advances of her boss? Will the hot newcomer change the playing field and win the coveted top role, to dance both the white and black swan elements of that leading role?

Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel in Black Swan Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman in Black Swan

As those questions are answered in a predictable fashion and the pressure mounts on Nina, she begins to unravel, first slowly, with a bit of self-mutilation, and then, as the films hits its stride in the second half, with a series of strange encounters, hallucinations and bizarre behavior. Suddenly, we’ve left the controlled, sterile (and dull) environment of the ballet troupe, the action heats up and we are thrust headlong into a wild club scene, followed up with pill popping, booze swilling and explicit girl-on-girl sexual encounters. Whew! This movie is as schizophrenic as its protagonist, with an ending that will leave you breathless.

Portman’s performance is at the center of this strange tale, and she’s likely to garner a number of best actress nominations by the time this year’s award season is through. But overall, “Black Swan” leaves too much to be desired at the front end and throws too much into the back to emerge as a true cinematic classic.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

(Updated: 12/03/10 CT)

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