Yes, Black Swan Is Great. And Hilarious.

By at January 12, 2011 | 12:51 am | Print

We’re a little puzzled by the gushy adoration for Darren Aronofsky’s wacky, wild Black Swan. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is enticing, carefully directed and creatively shot. But all the awards chatter and “it blew me away” talk sounds a little silly, frankly. Black Swan, in its best moments, is a cornball riot, a mixture of passionate acting, stilted dialogue, and classic cinematic melodrama.

Natalie Portman in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

Black Swan brings two movies to mind, both from director Brian De Palma, both from the mid-70s: Sisters, the 1973 split-personality style thriller with Margot Kidder as both title characters; and Carrie, De Palma’s classic supernatural hit. Personality disorders, uncontrollable power, psychotically overbearing mothers… Black Swan feels familiar, and very much in that self-conscious, exaggerated De Palma style. (In fact, one guy has compiled just about every time someone has mentioned De Palma in a Black Swan review.) From this seat, it feels like an homage.

You have to admit that the idea behind Black Swan is far more effective than the screenplay itself. When Barbara Hershey turns the mad mommy routine up to 11, it’s worth a laugh, if only because the screenwriting team (two of whom are first-timers), goes all soap opera with Hershey’s “sweet little girl” dialogue. Then there’s Winona Ryder’s boozy diva (Nina steals something from HER) and Vincent Cassell’s cliched company director. The sheer artifice makes it tough to see Natalie Portman’s tortured dancer Nina as anything but a fictional device. But hey, Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were nominated for Oscars…

We recommend Black Swan. But don’t twist yourself into knots pretending to take it seriously.

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