Black Swan
Image by paladinsf via Flickr

**Possible spoilers, but I’d never give away the ending!**

This movie was stunning, both visually and in terms of plot.  For those who haven’t seen it yet, it is the story of Nina Sayers, a young ballet dancer played exceedingly well by Natalie Portman.  She is a dancer in New York, living at home with her former ballet dancer mother who lives vicariously through Nina.  Nina’s whole life is ballet.  She has no outside interests or friends, and does nothing but dance and practice dancing.  She finally has the chance to play the swan queen and the black swan in Swan Lake, and wins the roll.  She is criticized by the director for not being able to convincingly dance the part of the Black Swan, who is darker and more sensuous.  Nina easily dances the innocent, naïve White Swan, but he wonders if she has it in her to dance both rolls.

To add to Nina’s stress, there is a new dancer in the company.  Lily, played by Mila Kunis, is everything that Nina isn’t and seems perfect for the Black Swan.  Since both roles are played by the same dancer, Nina becomes obsessed with the idea that Lily might be her replacement.

Through many emotionally and psychologically stressful scenes, we watch Nina fight a losing battle for her own sanity as she tries to play both roles successfully.

The cast in the movie is phenomenal.  Barbara Hershey, as Nina’s mother, is the stage mother who pushes her daughter to be the best.  She is living out her dreams through her daughter, but also seems to resent the fact that Nina has progressed further in her career than she was able to.  In more than one scene she is shown doing things that make me think she is subconsciously trying to sabotage Nina’s career, although she really believes she is trying to do her best for Nina.

Natalie Portman is the picture of a ballerina.  She dances convincingly, and is reported to have done 80% of her own dancing throughout the movie, with only small use of dance doubles.  Mila Kunis is sexy and steamy as wild girl Lily.  Vincent Cassel, mostly known in America for his role in Ocean’s Thirteen, is appropriately lascivious as the handsome director with a reputation for sleeping with his performers.

This movie was both brilliant and disturbing.  It becomes increasingly difficult for both Nina and the audience to tell the difference between what’s imagined and what’s real.  I can recommend it for anyone looking for a great psychological thriller.  Enjoying ballet is not necessary.