Friday, March 18, 2011

Film Review: Black Swan

I went to see Black Swan at the Maumee Indoor Theatre (601 Conant Street, Maumee, OH, (419) 897-8901) mainly because I was bored and felt like getting out. It wasn't a complete waste of money or anything, it's just that I have yet to find a review that actually told the truth about the film and what the story is all about. Hence my review of a film that's been out so long you can probably get it on DVD now. Anyway, if you haven't seen it, here's a review complete with spoilers.

Black Swan
Rated R
108 min
Genre: Drama | Mystery | Thriller

Starring -
Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers
Mila Kunis as Lily
Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy
Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers
Winona Ryder as Beth Macintyre
Benjamin Millepied as David
Ksenia Solo as Veronica
Kristina Anapau as Galina

For those of you unfamiliar with the off stage and behind the curtain life of a professional dancer that isn't pursuing her career at Platinum Showgirls, allow me to enlighten you. First off, ballet dancers are born, not made. If a girl isn't able to turn her toes out by rotating her hip joints, forget it. She's out of the line up. Likewise if she starts to resemble a real woman instead of a stick figure (like if she gets a nice set of bazzongas) she's passed over. Then, should she fail to have talent coupled with obsessive desires and deeply rooted insecurities, she won't work hard enough and so will be passed over. On top of this her parents, friends and family will have to accept her ignoring them in favor of ballet lessons, ballet practice and the injuries dancers get from wearing toe shoes and striving to contort themselves into unnatural positions. Then there's the personalities involved.

Dancers are mean. They tend to be unscrupulous and more than a little immoral. Most are insecure and display emotional problems that are as fluctuant as their bodies. Aberrant behavior is normal; these crazy little time bombs will explode into violent tantrums at the drop of the wrong name. Hell, you don't have to take my word for it; go talk to a few burned out ballet dancers and get the straight story for yourself. Anyway, Black Swan gives some insight into this. The choreographer acts like a real prick who tries seducing our poor protagonist, as do several other men and women. Mom smothers the girl and displays the emotional maturity of a failed ballet dancer who is now living vicariously, complete with neurotic behavior, through her daughter. Dad is no where to be found - the poor bastard probably saw the train wreck coming and decided to move to Thailand and send support and alimony checks once a month, that being a whole lot easier than failing to cope with two possibly dangerous screwballs at home.

The ballet company is performing Swan Lake, which is the very first ballet set to the score of a symphonic composer, namely Tchaikovsky. Ah-ha! That explains everything, right? For those who still lack an explanation, the short of it is that there's this swan who's really a gorgeous princess, and a bunch of people get together and do predictable things including showing each other their equipment, then everyone dies. Which, when you think about it, provides a nice, tidy ending with no room for a sequel. An error that wouldn't happen today, I assure you, but a blessing none the less.

The lead dancer for Swan Lake in the film is severely neurotic at the very best of times. Under stress she gets a little crazier every day until the astute audience member (hell, anyone who isn't asleep) will note that she's moved from neurotic into full time psychotic, complete with violent hallucinations and a set of compulsive, self-destructive habits that would cancel her ObamaCare in a New York minute. As the protagonist (Nina Sayers) gets through her day without benefit of medication, the R rating gets strained to the maximum. I'd have rated this gem with an X and left it in the art theater where it belongs, but somebody got their palm greased and here it is at the Maumee Indoor.

So what happens? On opening night someone puts a penny in Nina's fuse box, the crazy meter pegs and burns out, right along with our protagonist.

I liked the film, but it isn't for everyone. I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars, but I would not see it with Main Lady unless she insisted on it. I damn sure wouldn't let my kids see it, and not just because of the blatant sex scenes.


Older School said...

Very funny review, MJ. I think you should seriously consider a career as a movie critic. I am now thoroughly convinced that seeing that movie is a waste of time.

Mad Jack said...

Thanks, Older School. The Black Swan was difficult to criticize because it isn't a bad film - it's just that watching someone fall into a fatal psychotic break for 108 minutes may not appeal to everyone.

Anyway, I hope I saved a few people some grief.