Black Swan's Venice Debut: Is This The Psycho Ballerina Movie We've Been Waiting For?
On its face, Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan would seem to have something for everybody: lesbian kisses (for the masses), art house appeal (for the film snobs), and a supporting part for Winona Ryder (for Winona Ryder's agent). So how is the film being received after its Venice Film Festival debut?
Fairly well -- reviews range from total raves to mixed takes, though even the critics who are so-so on the film find much to like (the breaking point, it seems, is how over-the-top and frenzied things eventually get).
Natalie Portman is a surefire Oscar contender as lead ballerina Nina, asserts the Telegraph:
Every film festival benefits hugely from a strong opening film, and they don't come a lot stronger than Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller set in the world of New York ballet. Powerful, gripping and always intriguing, it also features a lead performance from Natalie Portman that elevates her from a substantial leading actress to major star likely to be lifting awards in the near future.
OK, but what about the girls kissing, you may ask. Indiewire's Todd McCarthy (in his mixed review) has a little to say about that:
Pushing herself into Nina's life in a different way is company newcomer Lilly (Mila Kunis), who's as loose and uninhibited as Nina is frigid and constipated. At first offering herself up as a friend, Lilly morphs into a conniving rival, at least in Nina's mind, which brims with paranoid fantasies. Lilly also becomes a source of potential erotic pleasure, to the point where an intense girl-on-girl encounter seems to provide Nina with the physical breakthrough she's needed, even if, again, this was just a figment of her dangerously accelerating imagination.
In Contention has plenty of praise for Portman's costars -- even Ryder:
She's bolstered by a trio of superb supporting players: [Barbara] Hershey and [Vincent] Cassel are clearly having a whale of a time with their helpless dragonry and arch oiliness, respectively, but it's the cool, throaty-voiced Kunis who is the surprise package here, intelligently watching and reflecting her co-star in such a manner that we're as uncertain as Nina of her ingenuousness. (There's a neat cameo from Winona Ryder, too -- notable mainly for gifting her with the unavoidably hilarious line, "You stole my things!")
Portman, who has danced but is no ballerina, does a more than credible job in the big dance numbers and the tough rehearsals that are so essential to the film. In her acting, too, you sense she has bravely ventured out of her comfort zone to play a character slowly losing sight of herself. It's a bravura performance. Kunis makes a perfect alternate to Portman, equally as lithe and dark but a smirk of self-assurance in place of Portman's wide-eyed fearfulness. Indeed, White Swan/Black Swan dynamics almost work, but the horror-movie nonsense drags everything down the rabbit hole of preposterousness.
As for Movieline's own review, stay tuned for Stephanie Zacharek's take, coming soon.