When a movie is marketed with Oscar hype, it sure creates a lot of buzz. Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Black Swan’ did manage the hype. But, was it worth the hype?
ballet company fires an old performer, Beth (Winona Ryder), it opens up a slot for a new lead in for its next production, Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’. Its Director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) wants his new star to portray both, the Swan Queen Odette, the white swan and her evil-twin Odile, the black swan. New York
Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), a senior ballerina with the troupe is selected for the role. But, Leroy is still not convinced if the uptight Nina can play the sensuous Odile. She has competition in Lily (Mila Kunis) and an overbearing mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) to deal with. The pressure drives Nina to psychotic hallucinations.
The theme was undoubtedly bulletproof. The idea of capturing the emotional roller coaster that an artist goes through in his/ her quest for perfection had the potential to make a great thriller. But, what you get instead is a mélange of backstage jealousy, some risqué scenes between the lead women and a touch of insanity.
It’s strange that a ballet themed flick doesn’t actually show the lead actors performing it any more than Portman waving her emaciated arms with close ups of her woe begone face completely lacking expression. Frankly, there is very little charm about her even as the ‘White Swan’. To her credit, Portman shed 20 pounds and learnt Ballet. But, barring her ‘Black Swan’ avatar towards the end, there wasn’t much to her acting.
Rather, Mila Kunis as the ‘comfortable in her own skin’ Lily, also Nina’s substitute seemed a better candidate if someone really wanted his play to run steadily for the whole season. Incidentlally, Kunis too lost as many pounds as her friend Portman who recommended her to the role. Vincent Cassel shines as the dictatorial director who pushes Nina to do her best and instead pushes her off the edge of sanity.
Having said that, ‘Black Swan’ isn’t in fact bad; just that it falls below what I expected it to be. To make an intense film that combines sheer passion of art with the devilish depths of insanity is in itself a great challenge. Aronfsky has made intense films in the past a la ‘A requirem for a Dream’. This one is decent, but could have been better.
Rating 6/10: Great concept; execution is not worth the hype