DVD Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Portman’s Oscar-Winning Performance Arriving on DVD
Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a dancer with a leading New York City ballet troupe preparing a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Although previously just a member of the chorus, Nina’s recently learned from her director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel), that he’d like to feature her as the face of the company during the upcoming season.
She’s getting a shot because he’s decided it’s time to replace his aging prima ballerina, Beth (Winona Ryder). So, Nina is among the handful of promising aspirants invited to audition for the split role of the White/Black Swan.
She proceeds to perform flawlessly as the former, effortlessly exhibiting the innocence called upon to play that part. But Thomas has reservations about casting Nina when she fails to display the requisite sensuality expected of the character’s seductive alter ego post-metamorphosis.
Therefore, to test whether or not Nina has the mettle to capture the carnality of the Black Swan, he pressures her sexually on ballet’s equivalent of the casting couch. Instead of filing harassment charges, shocked Nina opts to internalize the angst generated by the violation. After all, she senses that if she fails to accommodate his advances, there are others just waiting to jump at the opportunity, especially her primary rival, Lily (Mila Kunis).
Nina’s already fragile psyche is further compromised by the omnipresence of her overbearing stage-mom (Barbara Hershey) who can’t help but live vicariously through her daughter, employing reminders about “the career I gave up to have you” to motivate by guilt. As if all of the above weren’t enough, when Nina is announced as Beth’s replacement, the recently-demoted diva asks, “What did you do to get the role?” insinuating that she must have slept her way to the top.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler), Black Swan is a harrowing psychological thriller which paints a surreal portrait of the chilling consequences of compromising one’s values in quest of success. For the closer our heroine gets to the realization of her lifelong dream, the more we bear witness to the gradual disintegration of a tormented soul swallowed whole by blind ambition.
Beyond the freaky front story, the film features an abundance of breathtaking dance sequences, thanks to a splendid combination of costuming, sound, lighting and choreography as executed by a score of professionals courtesy of the Pennsylvania Ballet and the American Ballet Theater. But make no mistake, the best reason to recommend Black Swan is for the performance of cynosure Natalie Portman who earned an Academy Award for her spellbinding portrayal of the troubled diva at the center of this intriguing mindbender.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, graphic sexuality, and drug use and disturbing violent images.
Running time: 108 Minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Trailers and a featurette entitled “Black Swan Metamorphosis.”
Thursday, March 24, 2011
DVD Review by Kam Williams