<Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky, is the perfect example of brilliant performances stuck in a mediocre plot. The film starring Natalie Portman follows Nina Sayers, a ballerina who after years of devotion to her company is finally given the opportunity to star as the Black and White swan in her company's production of Swan Lake. Nina's hard work and dedication begin to consume her as she copes with her oppressive mother (Barbara Hershey) and Lily (Mila Kunis), her competition for the lead role. While Portman's work as a dancer and her acting are truly wonderful, the story of Nina's internal struggle is tired and nothing new.
Nina's virginal and hardworking persona, in Black Swan, are characteristic of stories and films where a female lead finds herself. This sweet-girl-in-pink is not a far departure for Portman whose roles as Queen Amidala in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and Sam in Garden State were similar. Although as the film progresses the audiences watch as Portman/Nina truly transform. Audiences who have been following Portman's career, are finally seeing a darker and deeper side to Portman. This transformation is clearly one of the reasons the film is nominated for four Golden Globes this season. The storyline is an examination of Nina's struggle to find the artist within her, and it seems that this is not only true for the character Portman is playing, but Portman herself.
Kunis, who plays Lily, is a breath of fresh air throughout the film. Audiences have seen Kunis a sex object since her debut on That 70's Show, Kunis does a magnificent job in her role as Nina's foil. While this wild-girl character isn't completely new for Kunis, audiences to see a deeper side to her in the scenes where she is dancing. The same is true for Hershey, whose portrayal of an overprotective stage mother, is on point. The few scenes Hershey and Portman share are filled with an almost disturbing tension.
Still it is important to remember that these are all characters audiences have seen or read about. The story line, which parallels the story of Swan Lake is practically forced down the audiences throat. The metaphors, right down the tattoo on Lily's back, are glaringly obvious. It is a wonder if Aronofsky has any faith, whatsoever, in his audience. While it is impossible to ignore the beauty and visual aesthetics of the film's choreography, and inspiring performances the story is important. Overall, the film unleashes some intriguing layers but by the end some are left ignored. Also, the blatant disregard for the audience's ability to absorb metaphor reinforced the cliche storyline. If it weren't Aronofsky's ability to draw out the best in his actors Black Swan would be forgettable.
Black Swan is still playing at most theaters in the Charlotte-Metro area.