@ the Movies/ Black Swan

Aronofsky explores the cruel realisms of that thirst for perfection in this dark thriller, a pinnacle role for its layered star Natalie Portman

BY EMIL TIEDEMANN

IT'S that mounting pressure to eclipse all rivalry and maintain that seemingly implausible stature in one's craft that breeds a compulsive, exhaustive hunger; one that can gradually take over. It was that particular hunger that steadily eroded ballet dancer Nina Sayers (played deftly by Natalie Portman) in Darren Aronofsky's arcane psychological thriller Black Swan. It is a part that very much validated Portman's positioning atop Hollywood's leading lady elite, much like how Aronofsky's The Wrestler blazed Mickey Rourke's comeback in '08.

Black Swan was nominated for a record 12
Critics Choice Awards
Actually, it's Portman's encompassing role that seizes most of the glory here, conjuring up steady awards buzz for this new year. In Black Swan she demonstrates the persistence and determination she pledged in order to play a young woman tortured by her own fixation for absolute perfection, even spending several months learning how to dance ballet.

Nina lives with her domineering mother Erica (Barbara Hershey)--who failed to cut it in the ballet world herself--in a small New York apartment. Nina's focused her full attention to preparing for and landing the role of the White and Black Swan in the production of Swan Lake, a performance priorly owned by prima ballerina Beth McIntyre (played by an almost out-of-place Winona Ryder).

Although Nina seems a precise match for the portrayal of the White Swan, the show's director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is hesitant in casting her in the lead, because she lacks the necessary grit to inhabit its Black counterpart. That is until a chance moment in which Nina exhibits the darkened passion and intensity that is essential for this schizo fowl.

It's then that Thomas hands her the role, though with it comes the agony of seizing the essence of its clashing dispositions, and torturous delusions that Nina can't seem to distinguish from fantasy and reality. Neither can we, the audience, but the mystic imagery of these sometimes unsettling illusions stimulate Aronofsky's tale of a fully engrossed, overly committed young woman.

Portman wears the part like a glove, shifting traits like it's second nature to her, and even braving the inelegance of a carnal lesbian scene with her character's charismatic understudy Lily (Mila Kunis). This marks brand new territory for the young actress, whom we all knew had the potential all along.

If you don't mind a little blood, graces of disturbing fantasy, and an unforgiving girl-on-girl rouse, then do yourself the favour and spend the 12 bucks to see this one. Just don't go into it, and I don't know why anyone would want to, expecting a movie about ballet. Really, that's just a stage prop.

4 outta 5 stars

Black Swan is currently playing in Edmonton @
-Cineplex Odeon North (780-732-2223)
-Garneau Theatre (780-433-0728)
-South Edmonton Common (780-436-8585)

Below is the official trailer for Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan.

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