Staring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Ksenia Solo, and more...
Premise: Nina finally gets her big break with the ballet troop when she is chosen to play the Swan Queen in Swan Lake. And she wants her performance to be PERFECT.
Review: I will try to review this without giving things away. First of, I will never be able to listen to the music of Swan Lake without recalling this movie! Never!
I was totally fascinated by this film on a multitude of levels. One is the look behind the curtain of the world of ballet. About the last ten years or so I've become more aware about the long term effects of doing ballet. It is a truly arduous profession that normally causes long term damage if you get good enough to go professional with it. As much or more so than expected of professional football and baseball players. You catch a tiny glimpse of that here. Of the commitment, the hours, the damage. And how catastrophic an accident could be.
Another is the pressure to succeed. The power plays, the rivalries, the politics, all the things you normally get with a group of any size where there lands a pecking order are there to be seen. Even other darker glimpses like of worship, ridicule, backstabbing, and even the force of others trying to live vicariously through their children.
The last was the complicated story of Nina herself. Someone who on the surface seems to have the talent, support, and good life, but only if you're only looking at the surface.
There were moments when the camera work options chosen were not the best in the first quarter of the film (like over the shoulder moving shots), but beside those, it just got better and better the further the film went. This is also a movie you don't expect the need for a lot of CGI or special effects work, but there is. And those were fabulous. Make sure to look at faces, at mirrors, and more. Don't blink!
The choreography and the hard work by Natalie Portman and others was outstanding. Several of the practice dance scenes have such close motion between her and her partners it was amazing to behold. Like watching jet pilots when they do their graceful weaving in the skies. Just amazing but easy to overlook or forget the amount of skill involved.
Natalie Portman deserves a nomination for an Oscar if not more. You'll see, trust me. But can't say more.
The story begins with a punch. A dream that is a harbinger of things to come in several levels. Then the film slowly, ever slowly simmers upward. Little flashes and bits get doled out and if you blink you'll miss some of them. Then the whole thing builds to a crescendo to a scene that literally had me break out in goosebumps all over. And then it swoops down for a couple of more punches in the gut. WOW! (The Black Swan sequence was beyond Superb! And then there was more!)
There is a lot of sexual matters alluded to or shown though there is no real nudity, but still not a kids' movie! The deeper aspects of it are probably not for kids either. Yet the allusions to sex and even a well dressed pervert in the subway also gave it a strange dimension of reality in a way.
The film even made fun of itself by showing some people who don't like ballet. A clash of two different worlds coming together. A definite problem that would be had by these young women if they tried to date outside their circles.
My husband came because I picked the movie and he had no better preference, but he came out of this happy that he came to see it. Yes, it was that good! (He's not into ballet at all.) It's a very visual film.
This is not a feel good movie. But it will stay with you. Perhaps even haunt you. I know it will haunt me.
Rating: 4.5 of 5