Hypothetically, if a survey were to go out to all film critics who viewed Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan and the results were nine out of ten liked the movie, I would be the one out of the ten who would not be in favor.
First, it should be mentioned that Aronofsky's previous works, Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, and The Wrestler, were all excellent pieces of work. Looking at these four films from a professional (and academic) perspective, Requiem for a Dream would win the prize in terms of filmmaking, acting, and adaptation. My second praise in terms of overall quality would be I am thankful for Aronofsky collaborating again with film composer Clint Mansell for the fifth time. Finally, it should be mentioned that the casting is excellent. There have been commercials and reviews praising the acting talents of Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, but I believe who was even more convincing in their role were the supporting cast members. Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, and the great Vincent Cassel were spot-on in their characters and should be given as much recognition as their main starlets steal their spotlight.
Moving on to Black Swan as a film, and briefly summarizing it, Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayers, an aspiring ballerina who lands the lead role of the Swan Queen in the upcoming ballet Swan Lake. Meanwhile she experiences strong hallucinations and fantastic physical changes. From this point on, "spoilers" and pivotal character actions will be discussed in detail. If you wish to "close your eyes" for the rest of the review, now is the time to do so.
What appears to be the main problem for the film is one thing - its originality. Essentially, Black Swan is Roman Polanski's excellent film Repulsion meets Powell and Pressburger's classic The Red Shoes with threads of Dario Argento's Suspiria and David Cronenberg's Videodrome. In addition to these films, it could also be called The Wrestler, Part Two.
The second part to the lack of originality is the ending. When it is seen that Nina stabbed herself, my eyes rolled. One word with four syllables could predict this: predictable. Why not play with the twisted relationship of Nina and her mother? What if she really killed her mother (the main reason for Nina's problems)? What if Nina really turned into the Black Swan sans the hallucination? The previous works by the director all have a dissatisfied satisfaction to the ending - tragic but great. The Black Swan's ending of Natalie Portman dying is simply anti-climatic.
Out of all this negativity, there are some positive qualities that were impressive to see since this is Aronofsky's "award movie" and seen by the masses. One particular aspect was the hallucinations that happen throughout the film. From the older man harassing Nina in the subway to Nina seeing herself were wonderfully played out. Another aspect that should be mentioned the sexual content. It was surprisingly explicit given the amount of attention its getting at the moment, but their tasteful nature was mandatory for the film's story since Nina is a confused and troubled young woman. Also, a brief scene of Nina at a dance club was beautifully done. The freeze-frames of her finally "losing herself" in blood red lighting were just satisfying. The final aspect that was remarkable was Nina's full transformation as the Black Swan. The winning moment in her mindset for that scene was her breathing - hypnotically seductive.
This movie is recommended for those who are devout fans of Aronofsky or those who are fans of visceral imagery in film. I do not recommend this to audience members who are squeamish to body wounds, or psychologically mind-bending films.
Grade: C (2.5 out of 5)