Portman excels in dance thriller

Whether you’re into ballet or not, “Black Swan” is a rare film that draws any kind of audience together. It’s much more than a story about a ballerina.

The plot revolves around the main protagonist, Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman). She is a young and shy ballerina at a New York ballet studio who has huge aspirations to make it big in the industry. She lives with her mother (Barbara Hershey) in a downtown apartment. The beginning of the film puts the spotlight on just how much she pushes for perfection day in and day out. Her mother is just as hard on her as she is to herself.

When the ballet director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) announces to the ballet members that the company will be doing a rendition of Swan Lake, Nina is hopeful that she can get the lead role. Swan Lake requires the lead role to play two major characters, the white swan and the black swan. The latter of which requires a darker side than its counterpart.

Thomas is impressed by Nina’s portrayal of the white swan, but is disappointed at her attempt of doing the black swan. After he yells at her in front of her peers for her poor try-out, Nina comes home crying as she knows she has little chance of getting the part.

The next day, however, she goes into his office to beg for the part, but Thomas refuses to give it to her because she is too soft to play the black swan. However, as her begging attempt seems as though it’s going to fail, Thomas starts to sexually harass her and starts French kissing her.

When the casting list is posted, Nina gets the lead role. As Nina starts practicing day in and day out, however, she begins to feel pressure building up on her. One of her fellow dance mates, Lily (Mila Kunis), who is new to the company, has the darkness of the black swan which Nina lacks.

Sensing the pressure that Nina is going through, Lily starts to talk to her about it, but Nina refuses to let her in as a friend. She senses that Lily is trying to take her place in the lead role for the production.

At this point, director Darren Aronofsky turns what the audience intially thinks is a Disney-esque family drama into a vicious psychological horror. As Nina strives for perfection, her worst enemy becomes herself as she starts to hallucinate and go insane in the process. What Nina doesn’t realize though is the story of the actual production is just a microcosm of her real life.

Natalie Portman turns in one of the best performances of the decade. This is one of those rare films where it’s equally a treat to see how both a director molds a dramatic, yet psychologically distrubing plot and the actor’s attention to detail in playing a tough role.

Jake Tarr

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