Intense is the one word I would use to describe this movie, but of course I need to provide more than that for the purposes of this exercise. The world has been waiting for Natalie Portman to deliver a performance like this ever since her debut in Luc Besson’s Leon: The Professional alongside Jean Reno and Gary Oldman back in 1994.
Acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky is able to bring out a dark energy from the entire cast that gives this film a very surreal and almost scary vibe. You fear for Natalie’s Nina over the course of the film as she is going through a transformation that you have a hard time figuring out if it is figurative or literal until the story reaches its inevitable climax.
Nina is a ballerina that has been performing in her company and is hopeful to take over the lead in the opening production of their new season which features the classic dual role of the white and black swans of Swan Lake. She is an obvious choice based on her technical expertise but the director (Vincent Cassel) feels that she falls short of reaching the sensuality and edge that is needed to bring the darker half of the role to life.
Enter Lily, played by Mila Kunis, who has more than enough of the attributes needed to fill both roles and she makes no secret of her desire to land the part. This sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Nina finding herself entangled in an ever increasing amount of pressure coming from the director, her peers, her obsessive mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), and more than anyone else, herself.
Stunning visuals and great performances are the key to the energy of this film and the slow build of the aforementioned intensity keeps you on edge and waiting to see what will happen next and how the story will eventually unfold. Going in, I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy this film, but even though the subject matter isn’t necessarily something that really appeals to me, it was the way this story was told drew me in and didn’t let go until well after the movie was over.
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