Thursday, February 17, 2011

Film Review: Black Swan

.:Film Review: Black Swan:.

I swear! The movie poster is just right behind us. LOL.

Black Swan
It happened. No, it didn’t. It happened. No, it didn’t.

So all things considered, it was a pretty fun romp when Jazminne and I actually had our first ever “date” and we really had a great time, even if I had a lot of scratch marks and other assorted minor injuries to show for it. It certainly didn’t hurt that we ate in CPK before we started watching the movie, although to be honest, it was every bit as dangerous as walking in Cubao in the middle of the night while you’re trying out your brand-new iPad...

For once, I’m afraid of forks!

Anyways, that’s mostly beside the point, because I’m supposed to be doing a film review, and not telling you how the “date” went, albeit it was funny all throughout because she was poking me for being “late” since she showed up at the other end of Trinoma and I had to walk to her side of the mall, which took ages. Yes, we can skip over the whole lunch, not to mention the part where I got whooped in Tekken when somebody challenged me while I was *trying* to show off in Timezone (Street Fighter IV wasn’t available. Boo.)... but yeah, that whole date was one for the books and nothing short of memorable.

By the way, SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

So. Where was I? Oh, yeah. The movie. After “The Wrestler,” any film by Darren Aronofsky has garnered higher expectations than ever, and with a very capable actress like Natalie Portman at the helm, this movie couldn’t help but deliver. The fact that “That 70’s Show” alum Mila Kunis was also quite a revelation in her role as Natalie’s frenemy turned deadly (Or is it?) also just brings my regard for the movie up quite a bit.

In the movie, Nina (Portman) is a ballerina who has been longing to get the break she feels she deserves in her company. When the director, Thomas, unexpectedly decides to give Nina a shot, many speculate on exactly what she has given up just to get to where she is, especially since her technical precision as a performer prevents her from nailing the kind of wanton, reckless, seductive power that oozes out from every pore of the Black Swan character in Swan Lake. While the White Swan is the lead of the ballet, and while Nina’s grace and poise captures the White Swan without any difficulty, her apparent frigidity prevents her from achieving as much as success as the evil counterpart.

With her new lead role, with it comes the retirement of Beth, the company’s previous star, who apparently has issues with Thomas, and feels so used she apparently tried to commit suicide while she was at it. This sets off a chain of events with Nina, whose tenuous relationship with her mother, coupled with the inordinate pressure she is placed under as the lead for the production, is unhinging her slowly but surely.

With the arrival of Lily (Kunis) and her attempt at forging a bond with Nina, their huge contrasting personalities appear to be as mismatched as can be until Nina begins to loosen up and unleash her dark side, which appears to manifest itself physically throughout the film, from the subtlest of hints to the point where she half-literally transforms into a black swan in the middle of performing Swan Lake. While it’s clear that most of this is happening in her mind, the actual manifestations of what happens in her mind result in dramatic results, including an apparent murder, theft, and a very surreal lesbian love scene between Nina and Lily.

At the end of the film, Nina channels what she believed her predecessor, Beth, to be: perfect. Unfortunately, she may very well be bleeding to death in the physical aftermath of what she thought was a fatal confrontation between her and Lily that only happened in her mind.

The movie’s abrupt and subtle shifts between perception and reality can definitely jar even the savvier movie-goer, and considering how suspenseful the mood of the entire film is, one could only imagine how Jazminne must have felt while watching the film, as she is anything but a fan of scary movies. While Black Swan doesn’t fall under horror, the psychological suspense the mood and plot of the movie appears to immerse you in is undeniably thick, and there’s an unmistakable amount of trepidation as you wade through the storyline without knowing what to expect.

With so many mysteries to be solved and questions that remain to be answered by the end of the film, Black Swan definitely makes a strong case for sending its viewers through a head trip that is just too surreal for words. The excellent combination of stellar performances, top-notch yet equally ambiguous storytelling, and great mood setting really put this movie in the must-see category. Of course, there’s something to be said about the fact that the ballet seems more of a symbolic backdrop than a compelling hook, but maybe I’m not too familiar with ballet to really know just how integral it really is to the film. Would a different setting have evoked the same effect? I’d be lying if I said it probably would, and perhaps the ballet company setting is better than I can consciously give it credit for.

I try to look for some deep, underlying message in the film, but I tend to end up buried under Cartesian concepts because you never quite know if what you’re watching is happening or not, as far as the story is concerned. At what point is reality so broken apart that the illusion becomes every bit as valid? It’s an interesting conundrum that the movie presents without ever itself asking the question aloud.

Definitely worth watching, unless you’re seeing it with someone whom you have to explain what’s going on onscreen every five minutes or so... heh.

Fun Evaluation: A-
Critical Evaluation: A

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