Jen Yamato
Black Swan Review

Jen's Rating:


Cronenberg meets Swan Lake.

Who’s In It: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder

The Basics: Ballerina Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) has been training for stardom her whole life, coached to the point of obsession by her stern stage mother (Barbara Hershey), herself a failed former dancer. When Nina lands the lead in her company’s new production of Swan Lake, she’s ecstatic – but the virginal, fragile young ingénue can’t seem to nail the part’s dual role of the sensual Black Swan. Enter Lily (Mila Kunis), Nina’s rival and understudy, who embodies everything Nina isn’t, seems to be sleeping with the director (Vincent Cassel), and may or may not be slowly driving Nina to the brink of insanity.

What’s The Deal: Darren Aronofsky, who most recently directed Mickey Rourke to an Oscar nomination in the gritty drama The Wrestler, returns to the arena of performers and body horror with this darkly sensual thriller set in the world of ballet. With an eye for the precise and demanding milieu of professional dance – tutus and cracked toenails and bitter jealousies galore – he builds an increasingly claustrophobic world around Portman’s delicately nuanced performance, ratcheting up the tension with an escalating series of disorienting incidents filtered through his heroine’s eyes. By the time the truth reveals itself you may have already guessed where things were heading, but don’t hold that against the film; the fun (and the horror) is in watching Portman slowly lose what little grasp on reality she had to begin with over the course of a meticulously controlled performance that culminates in the most haunting and grandiose cinematic coup de grace of the year.

And You Thought Nothing Would Top Grown Men Rolling Around In Barbed Wire And Broken Glass: The gory match at the end of The Wrestler was an excruciating highlight of the many injuries Aronofsky has inflicted upon the protagonists of his films, but he tops himself with seemingly minor self-inflicted mutilations in Black Swan that’ll have you wincing in your seat – peeling fingers, compulsive skin scratching, and even freakier out-of-nowhere body horror shocks, not to mention the real-life physical deformations ballerinas inflict on themselves in pursuit of pretty, pirouetting perfection.

Portman In The Performance Of The Year: Obsessed with perfection, Portman’s Nina is a frigid, naive woman-child who talks in a fearful whisper and wears her repression on her sleeve – until she begins subconsciously embracing her dark side. Portman keeps a tight lid on the crazy bursting to get out, painting a picture of Nina’s inner life in moments that reveal her fragile psyche as it crumbles, bit by bit, into paranoia. By the time her inner Black Swan emerges, Portman becomes a wholly different creature – seductive, unhinged, and revelatory in her transformation.

Further Viewing On Similar Subjects: Watch the Powell and Pressburger classic The Red Shoes, arguably the best dance movie ever made and a film impossible not to think about after watching Black Swan. Also see: The competitive ballerina drama The Turning Point, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, the body-horror oeuvre of David Cronenberg, and the original Swan Lake ballet, a tragic tale of yearning in its own right.


Comments (24)

to - 12-03-2010 4:45 PM
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No s*** smartass! I'm sure it was just an honest mistake

Chris - 12-04-2010 12:49 AM
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I just saw this movie tonight and I was blown away. It was so intense that I could breath. Natalie Portman was out of her mind... fucking crazy. She was so convincing that I was frightened for her. UNREAL. This is one of the best films I have ever watched.

Pikey - 12-06-2010 9:38 PM
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Robb: though Rourke didn't win the Oscar, he was nominated for best actor. I think it's safe to say that it was product of Aronofsky's direction. Rather than simply read and consider a seasoned and educated perspective in spite of a simple error, you launch a self-indulgent personal diatribe against the critic. You have a lot of growing up to do, sport. Bill: if you took the time to read the review, it would be obvious how unimportant the mistake truly was - it certainly didn't render the remainder "worthless," unless you truly do have a unique insight into the taste of "most movie buffs."

Mere - 12-07-2010 7:31 PM
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So where exactly is this movie playing? It doesn't seem to be playing in Tennessee or Georgia...I would like to go see this, can someone help me? Thanks!

LONNIE ROUSER - 12-08-2010 1:37 PM
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I quote, "What’s The Deal: Darren Aronofsky, who most recently directed Mickey Rourke to an Oscar nomination in the gritty drama The Wrestler".... Clearly the critic stated Oscar nomination not Oscar winner ALCON, plz read the remarks again...

Sean - 12-08-2010 10:30 PM
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Rob you suck big balls. She wrote Mickey's Oscar nomination not Oscar winner..Big difference like the big balls you are sucking

Robb - 12-09-2010 11:46 AM
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Guess What Sean and Lonnie...the review has been edited since it first came out. I actually cut and pasted the quote DIRECTLY from her original review. IF YOU TWO were to read the quotes above mine, you can see they said similar things. Now, who sucks the big balls???

Elizabeth Schoeppner - 12-11-2010 9:23 PM
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Just watched this film and I can't stop raving about it. Natalie Portman was perfection. Beautiful, intense and just fantastic. I can't wait to own the DVD. If you can't find it in a theater near you, don't worry they are releasing it to more theaters next week. This was a small release because they weren't sure what the reaction and demand would be, but luckily it will have a wider release than originally planned. Keep checking for times :)

Pikey - 12-12-2010 2:46 PM
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Robb - it's still you.

Sally - 12-16-2010 6:36 PM
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If you read her review it said most recently directed Rourke to an Oscar NOMINATION.....

James - 12-17-2010 11:38 PM
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Ms. Yamato stated Director Aronofsky secured an Oscar 'nomination' for The Wrestler -- which is accurate. She didn't assert he won it. By the way -- the movie is a thrill ride into one of the better personal meltdowns on screen in some time.

pparramo - 12-19-2010 11:46 AM
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It is very easy to hide behind the anonimity of the internet to spew venom against anyone, in this case Ms. Yamato. If you have a personal vendeta against her just go ahead and say so, but at least man up to it. Her job is to give her opinion, whether you like it or not. Get a life douche bag.

fifi - 12-24-2010 5:41 AM
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I thought the dialogue was poorly written. And misogynist (frigid? that's Freudian psychobabble.) What company director would so clumsily say 'good riddancce' to an outgoing star at a public event, and introduce a younger version in the next breath? And - excuse me - Vicent Cassal is jumping on her during practice - oh, hello, isn't that sexual harrasment, or are we post-POST feminist now? And - what - she discovers she's a lesbian, and this is the most tragic news of all?

Frank - 12-27-2010 10:58 AM
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Fifi, she didn't do anything because she finally got the spot she wanted. If she did there was the chance of losing the spot so she kept her mouth shut. Overall great movie. A+

Tracy - 12-28-2010 10:33 PM
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Dear Jen: Did we see the same movie?? OMG! I believe that I have an open mind toward film and the Arts in general. I am a theater Major, after all. However, THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST OVER-THE-TOP, REDICULOUSLY OVER-ACTED, UNDER-DEVELOPED MOVIES I HAVE EVER HAD TO SIT THROUGH!!! I was really looking forward to seeing it, since I have a great respect for Dance, Ballet specifically. This was certainly not a study of the discipline of Dance, but a gross horror flick about a character's neurosis/psychosis and broken-toeses. YUK and CLUCK! :( I feel the writer, director, producer and most of the cast must have come up with this "project" at a heavily drug-induced cocktail party in some NY Penthouse at 4 a.m.. I've seen better student films devel

Tracy - 12-28-2010 11:11 PM
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(Part 2 from review above) oped in similar environs! I hereby rename this film "A FLOCK O' S#!%" :( Save your Christmas dollars, don't see this "LITTLE FLOCK OF HORRORS"!!!

julief - 12-30-2010 8:26 PM
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Jen's review put this picture on our extremely tiny hiatus list. I watched the trailers and can't wait for the film. She is a real guide to those of us who only have a few opportunities to see films in first release....Go Jen!

Douchebag - 1-05-2011 5:11 PM
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@Tracy: Yuk and cluck? Neurosis/psychosis and broken-toeses? "A Flock of ____"? "Little Flock of Horrors"? How old are you? Twelve?

no. - 1-07-2011 8:48 PM
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this movie was awful. jeez.

Philip - 1-22-2011 11:27 PM
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Fine acting by all the cast. Not over the top, whatever your theater background might be.

Black Swans Gay - 2-04-2011 11:45 PM
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this movie was fucking stupid.......dude wheres my car was better. This shit was like SHOWGIRLS and FIGHT CLUB combined......... I now wanna watch an M. Night Shamalan movie just so i can forget this stupid piece of shit!!!!!!

Alex - 2-06-2011 6:02 PM
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This was not a good movie! I would not recommend this movie to anyone. Don't waste your money!

CBR - 2-24-2011 3:29 AM
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Total misogynist piece of trash. Get some folks who are actually educated, nice and female to write films about women, and stop harassing women with all of this sexist, dumba** Hollywood boy bullsh*t. Sicko, incredibly stupid film.

dm - 3-31-2011 10:22 PM
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This was the stupidest movie ever. I thought it was going to be an intesnse/dark side movie with a strong dance theme. NOT! It was a porn- both straight and gay- about a psycho with split personality disorder. Stupid!

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