Cliff's Review of Black Swan
A friend of mine saw this the first day it came out, and immediately said how great it was and that I needed to see it. While we are both cinemaphiles, generally, of the two of us, he is the one who would say a movie was pretentious and silly and I'd be defending it. So when it looked like the big "studio" arthouse movie this year, it piqued my interest. The overwhelmingly positive critical response and all the accolades also made me think it would probably be a movie I'd like. I don't always agree with the critics, but when you have such a strong positive reception, I generally at least more or less agree with them. And while I'm not a huge Aronofsky fan, I've enjoyed all his movies to some degree or another and thought he was a clearly talented director.
So, the end result is, I've never been so stunned to dislike a movie this strongly. I not only thought the movie was overrated, I thought it was tedious, ham-handed, empty and pretentious. Matter of fact, it's not since the LAST time Natalie Portman played an annoying **** tease with major issues (Closer) that I can remember a movie that I found offering less with more flair and which I found myself disagreeing with the majority of critics so strongly. But Closer had that kick-ass Damien Rice song.
In the interest of being fair, I'll admit the psychological/horror aspects of the film were well played. At least so long as I took the movie seriously. I mean, I was occasionally scared, horrified and confused. I've never been nearly so bad off as Nina, I've been through enough that I can recognize the sorts of issues she's struggling through.
And how Aronofsky did this particular aspect of the film was fairly well done and WOULD have held my interest if the entire world of this film hadn't been filled with shallow, trite characters and ham-handed, done-to-death plot devices. But by the time Nina may or may not have been sorta kinda raped by a ballerina in costume, who also may or may not have been someone else, I was laughing at it, not being shocked by it.
I'm still trying to figure out just what is so great about this story. So, we have an innocent, too-driven young artist being exploited and abused by a domineering pretentious but brilliant director. Gee, how original. She sorta struggles and goes nuts trying to perfect her art, and puts up with being quasi-raped by her coach, and then discovers her inner great artist. Or something.
OK, so I'll admit, a movie isn't what it's about, but how it's about it, as Ebert says. But can someone tell me how this just wasn't ham-handed silliness? There is nothing wrong with sex in a movie, but come on, it seemed like the entire first half of the movie was suppose to be "edgy" scenes with her coach awkwardly talking about sex, several masturbating scenes, a weird molestation/quasi-rape scene, followed a little later by a lesbian sex scene that as it ends up wasn't real. None of these scenes shocked me, turned me on, or anything else. It seemed like cheap, emotionless titillation and not a lot different from soft porn.
And seriously, could he have been anymore obvious when it comes to explaining the characters psyches? "LOOK! She took drugs and probably screwed some guy in a bar and then dreamed up a lesbian relationship. Now she's THROWING AWAY HER STUFFED ANIMALS!!! I wonder what THAT is demonstrating?" That was only the most obvious example, but it seemed like nearly everything was done in the same manor.
I'll admit, the performances were psychologically difficult. If they had been married to interesting characters, it might have made it worth it. But instead, it was married to self-important, pretentious, shallow idiots.
The only character I thought was actually a little interesting was Nina's mom. I at least sensed a genuine conflict in her between wanting her daughter to succeed on her own and wanting to keep her close. But she was given predictable, canned dialogue, "No, the career I gave up to raise you," (in case we were too stupid to figure this out, they didn't even add any adjectives or adverbs) when she was given dialogue at all.
Other then the weird psychological/horror aspects of this film, which I admit at least had some merit, I'd really like to hear more about what people liked about this movie. I still can't believe it was as bad as I thought it was. Maybe I'll change my mind on another viewing? I have trouble thinking so.