Black Swan is billed as a psychological thriller. It’s really only about 20% thriller & 80% psychologically frustrating.
The audience is constantly forced to see potentially critical events in the storyline that may be mere hallucinations or dreams. Usually the viewer has no clue whether the scene is really taking place or just a figment of the character’s imagination – this is true as the scene is happening & often the case after the scene is over!
Portman & Kunis both give inspired roles as ballet dancers trying to prove they have what it takes to be the lead in the NYC “Swan Lake” ballet production. Unfortunately at times their characters are so manipulative and selfish it’s hard to root for either of them. It’s too bad, b/c most of the other characters in this movie are even more selfish, controlling, and abusive. I’d elaborate on this, but I don’t want to give away the plot.
Even though I’d like a character or two who I can at least tolerate, I appreciate an entirely dark film if it has an engaging story. A perfect example of this is 2000’s Requiem for a Dream, an extremely dark film about addiction from Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky.
Aronofsky considers Black Swan a companion piece to his 2008 film, The Wrestler. This is about like Steven Soderbergh saying his Ocean’s 12 was a companion piece to Traffic. Yes, both were ensemble casts on missions involving greed vs. justice, but that’s where the similarities end. Ocean’s 12 was a meandering mess, while Traffic had a thrilling, focused storyline.
The Wrestler consistently gained momentum and I found it easy to relate to the “live hard-die hard” lifestyle of semi-pro wrestlers. With Black Swan, I struggled to understand the emphasis on mental illness and general direction of the plot. While both films are very gritty, Black Swan’s hallucination-filled story arc royally frustrated me about every 25 minutes! Often when I wasn’t driven crazy by the story, I was totally bored watching the dancers practice their ballet moves for seemingly no reason – other than to set up another chance for conflict between Portman & the supporting actors.
I respect Aronofsky’s attempt to make ballet gripping and intense, and his ability to direct an interesting climax to this film kept me from being totally disappointed. Portman & Kunis both gave strong acting performances, & Aronofsky vet Clint Mansell did a great job with the music score as well.
Still, the plot exhausts & frustrates the viewer who’s really paying attention, and bores anyone who isn’t.
Oh, and unless you’re age 18-35 or really open minded, there are a couple scenes involving Portman getting some “satisfaction” that will probably make you pretty uncomfortable watching this movie with others. This is probably NOT a film you want to watch with your parents! And if you choose to watch this with kids, good luck explaining to them what’s happening in those scenes LOL
How Black Swan is rated just R & not NC-17 is beyond me!
Verdict: 1.5 stars
Here’s a brief recap of how The Floor Seats’ 0-4 star rating system breaks down:
0-1 stars: This is an atrocious movie; an insult to film & a waste of your time
1-2 stars: Bad but not awful – avoid unless you’re dying to see it for a particular genre/subject matter/actor’s performance
2.5 stars: Only worth a rental if you really like that genre/subject matter/actor’s performance
3 stars: Definitely worth a rental unless you hate that type of genre/subject matter/actor’s performance
3.5 stars: Very good but not great – this is a film you should definitely rent & even consider buying if you like that genre/subject matter/actor’s performance
4 stars: Outstanding & unforgettable – almost certainly 1 of the top 100 greatest films you’ve ever seen. Buy with confidence!