Friday, December 3, 2010

"Black Swan"
Three stars

By Gary Buiso

“Black Swan” is a dreamy psychological thriller with a jagged edge, a backstage melodrama that’s also a mediation on paranoia and perfection.

Natalie Portman plays Nina, a virginal ballerina who has been cast as the lead in a new version of “Swan Lake,” filling the shoes vacated by a suddenly spurned prima ballerina played by Winona Ryder.  

Nina flourishes when she has to dance the part of the innocent White Swan, but struggles when she has to become the Black Swan, the sensual, darker side of the role.

She’s prodded to feel more by her despotic, lusty director (Vincent Cassel), and badgered by her domineering mother (Barbara Hershey), a former ballerina. It’s no wonder the poor girl is beginning to see things. And when a sexy rival (Mila Kunis) joins the company, Nina’s hallucinations escalate, and she suspects a plot to unseat her as lead. 

Director and Brooklyn-native Darren Aronofsky renders the story with an elegant mix of handheld and traditional shots — his signature touch. He extracts everything from his cast, particularly Portman, who is courageous and transformative.

The script does not hold up as well, as it is bulky at times, like a bull in a ballet. 

“Black Swan” is not revelatory, but its moments of terror and beauty are stunning nonetheless.

"Black Swan." 108 minutes. Rated R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, 
language and some drug use.  With Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Wynona Ryder, and Barbara Hershey.


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