My instincts at last year’s TIFF was to stay away from this one. Even when it was released here, I shrugged. Then the Golden Globes were announced: nominations for the two lead actresses, best picture, best director . The critics love it. So does the audience it seems. My instincts were right. This film is a lazy fake.
Here’s what annoys me: how hard is it to tell a story through the eyes of a disturbed protagonist? You can do anything and don’t have to worry about continuity. This is lazy narrative. So to reward the director especially, is a joke. In my opinion it’s not even a very good film: high on melodrama, low on taut narrative.
I can give you Natalie Portman (though Jennifer Lawrence is better in Winter’s Bone) – I haven’t seen the others as yet. I can certainly give you Mila Kunis in her supporting role and she may well deserve it (though Melissa Leo and Amy Adams are very good in The Fighter). Matter of fact, Winona Ryder could easily have been nominated for her role as the fading ballerina, pushed out by the company director.
Portman plays Nina, a member of a New York ballet company who has not quite risen to the top. Technically, she’s perfect, but she lacks that extra something. She still lives at home with her mother (Barbara Hershey) who used to be a ballet performer herself, until she gave it up to have Nina. Or so she says. Hershey’s character (Erica) seems to be ambivalent about her daughters career. She pushes her and supports her, but left lingering is the thought that maybe mom doesn’t really want her daughter to surpass her in her career. When she gets her big chance, she begins her freak out, abusing her body and becoming paranoid about others wanting her role. She is perfect as the White Swan (virginal), but lacks the sexuality and abandon to plays the Black Swan). This is where it gets murky. But not in the director’s mind, apparently.
I really did not like the film, only giving it the rating I did because of the very good acting by four professional actresses.