By COLEMAN CLARK
Oh Natalie. You used to be so sweet.
Natalie Portman, known for typically cheery roles like in “Garden State,” lets her career take a much needed dark turn in “Black Swan,” a sleek film about a ballerina’s descent into madness that is equal parts thriller, melodrama and art film.
Portman’s Nina, the fragile heroine of “Black Swan,” lives, eats and breathes ballet. From her rail-thin figure to her seamless ability to blend in with the real dancers, Portman’s dedication to the role is clear.
Her portrayal of a young ballerina killing herself to be perfect is stunning. She is able to convince the audience that she is actually living this character’s life and commits to every event, no matter how unbelievable it may be.
While the other performances are not as riveting as Portman’s, the supporting cast is no less committed.
Vincent Cassel is brilliant as Leroy, who abuses his position as director to manipulate the girls of the company, while Barbara Hershey plays Nina’s obsessive, over-protective mother.
Winona Ryder plays the aging prima ballerina of the company with a deliciously over-the-top flair.
Ryder, not surprisingly, falls comfortably into the role of the former “it girl” who is forced to cope with the spotlight literally moving to a younger, prettier star.
The clear choice for the part of the role of Black Swan is Lily, a confident, seductive new dancer flown in from the west coast and played by Mila Kunis of “That 70s Show” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Kunis is dazzling in the role, always keeping the audience unsure of her slippery character’s intentions or motives.
The dialogue and events of the movie are a tad cliche, but there are many factors in play that save “Black Swan” from becoming the unofficial sequel to “Showgirls.”
Director Darren Aronofsky, a man obsessed with letting viewers watch the deterioration of his lead characters––see “Requiem for a Dream,” “Pi,” “The Wrestler”––immerses the viewer into a gloomy, dangerous world not typically associated with ballet.
You’ll be swept away into the drama of this ballet company and the stakes feel high for Nina, which makes it easier to suspend belief when things get crazy.
As the pressure starts to weigh on her, she becomes increasingly paranoid and begins to hallucinate.
This creates suspense and invigorating special effects, but the confusion, and uncertainty of real events, created by horror film-esque “gotcha!” moments wears thin.
Overall, “Black Swan” is definitely a winner. It doesn’t present any revolutionary ideas, but the courageous performance from Portman, Aronofsky’s brilliant direction, and the apparent dedication of all persons involved in the film make it completely worth your time and money.