While Natalie Portman gives a powerful, Oscar-caliber performance in Black Swan, the heavily hyped movie may well be the biggest cinematic disappointment of 2010.
Portman's acting and dancing are remarkable. Always diminutive, she lost a scary amount of weight to portray Nina Sayers, a physically and psychologically scarred ballerina. The music is a perfect, chilling companion to the psychosexual drama. It's the story that's the weak link here. Well, that and, it must be said, the directing.
Director Darren Aronofsky makes an interesting choice -- repeatedly -- in having the camera trail Portman. It follows her and her chignon through the apartment she shares with her has-been ballerina mother, played by Barbara Hershey; from the subway to the performance hall; through the labyrinthine corridors of the theater where she rehearses. We get it, already. She feels like she's being followed.
Along about the time Nina descends into madness, the chignon gets messy. A few of the bobby pins must've fallen out. You know, to symbolize that Nina may have a screw loose. Well, duh. She's anorexic, lets her mother undress her and get her ready for bed and has a scratching disorder.
As Nina comes undone, so does the movie. It devolves into utter silliness. I've seen movies of the week with less melodrama. In fact, the whole thing has sort of a "woman on the brink" quality you might expect in a Lifetime movie.
Aside from the four main characters (Nina, her mother, the predatory choreographer who challenges Nina to live a little -- and by that, he means, start doin' the nasty -- and her rival), the other actors may as well be props. The rival ballerina, Lily, (Mila Kunis) is all wrong. The "bad girl" shows up late for rehearsal, doesn't need to warm up, smokes, boozes it up and -- here's where it's really ridiculous -- eats. Burgers.
I guess there's a chance Lily is Nina's alter-ego. There are a few clues that Nina/Lily may represent two personalities of the same person. I'm not invested enough in any the characters to ponder it much longer. I thought this movie was going to be crazy good. Turns out, it's just crazy. Skip it.