May 19, 2011

Justify My Netflix: Black Swan

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Black Swan

Today's movie: Black Swan, 2010 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because it's the latest by the always fascinating Darren Aronofsky, an Oscar-winning surrealist drama starring that dreamy Natalie Portman in one of the most challenging roles of her career, in a movie that combines reality and the dream world in slippery, hard-to-detect ways, and which incidentally established almost single-handedly the adult bona fides of That '70s Show alum Mila Kunis. Do I need another reason?!

The reality: Wow, what a wonderful thing to see -- finally, Aronofsky pulling his entire bag of tricks together and delivering them at the absolute top of their form. Because to be sure, this film contains nearly every element that made his earlier movies like Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain and The Wrestler so beloved, but this time removing all the aspects that made those films just as annoying to others: it's an intriguing examination of the duality of human nature, told within a milieu that wallows in the stinking, sweating pleasures of the flesh, but that contrasts this with the unusually vivid inner lives of the main characters, all told via Aronofsky's ongoing fascination for non-Christian-based mythology (in this case, a Russian pagan folk tale, adapted into a ballet in the 1800s, which the modern dance company in this film is doing a new adaptation of, and whose plot points are experienced by the highly strung head dancer in her daily life, even as she goes through the grueling process of preparing for the ballet itself). Oh yeah, and screeching overprotective mothers played by uglified Hollywood veterans; it's got that too! Admittedly, I've been an up-and-down fan of Aronofsky over the years, so I'm thrilled to see all his quirks really come together here in a successful mesh for the first time; and this movie definitely deserves all the accolades it's gotten, even though I also agree with the complaint that the storyline itself is literally nothing more than the plot highlights of Swan Lake applied in this metafictional, story-within-a-story way. If you still haven't seen it, I highly encourage you to rent it out soon.

Strangest piece of trivia: The pianist who plays during rehearsals is none other than John Epperson, better known as famous drag performer Lypsinka.

Worth your time? Absolutely

Filed by Jason Pettus at 8:44 AM, May 19, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |