‘Black Swan': The Reviews Are In!

One critic gushes that the psychological drama and its star, Natalie Portman, are 'unmissable and unforgettable.'

Only folks in eight select major metropolitan cities across North America will have a chance to see [movie id=”433331″]”Black Swan”[/movie] this weekend. And as for the weekend after that, unless you’re a proud resident of, say, Detroit or happen to be swooping into St Louis for a little holiday, you’ll still be out of luck. The rest of the country will have to wait a full two weeks from now, as Fox Searchlight slowly rolls out this Oscar darling about the ultra-competitive world of professional ballet.

Is it any consolation to say that even if you can’t see “Black Swan” this weekend, you can at least read the thoughts of those who have? Well, you can, because reviews for Darren Aronofsky’s follow-up to “The Wrestler” have been pouring in. Here’s what the critics are saying about “Black Swan.”

The Story

“Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) has obsessively perfected her flawless technique at an unnamed New York company for years when she’s finally considered for the lead in an upcoming production of ’Swan Lake.’ As her manipulative artistic director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), observes, Nina possesses all the innocence and self-control of the Swan Queen, but his ’stripped-down, visceral’ version of the ballet demands that she also portray the Black Queen. She’s a sinuous, primal persona he doesn’t think Nina can pull off. It’s difficult to disagree: With her breathy whisper of a voice, cosseted home life with overprotective mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) and wide-eyed sexual naïveté, Nina remains a child-woman swaddled in feathery scarves and downy pink shrugs. What’s more, a tattooed ingenue named Lily (Mila Kunis, in a smashing breakout performance) has just joined the company, presenting a loose-limbed, smoky-eyed threat to Nina’s tightly wound rectitude.” — Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

The Performances

“Portman’s performance is a revelation from this actress who was a 13-year-old charmer in ’Beautiful Girls’ (1996). She has never played a character this obsessed before, and never faced a greater physical challenge (she prepared by training for 10 months). Somehow she goes over the top and yet stays in character: Even at the extremes, you don’t catch her acting. The other actors are like dance partners holding her aloft. Barbara Hershey provides a perfectly calibrated performance as a mother whose love is real, whose shortcomings are not signaled, whose own perfectionism has all been focused on the creation of her daughter.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

The Direction

“As for Aronosfky, this is the stripped down and gritty director he became for ’The Wrestler,’ on display yet again to showcase yet another amazing individual performance. ’Black Swan’ is eerily beautiful in its best moments, but if you’ve seen Aronofsky’s older work, you know he’s capable of even more complex and layered visual wizardry. Instead he’s restrained, for the most part letting the film’s haunting performance from Portman speak for itself, resorting to visual trickery only in careful measure.” — Josh Tyler, Cinema Blend

The Dissenters

“There’s something demented about ’Black Swan’ and not in a good way. It’s excessive and psychologically imprecise, coarse where it should be refined and too much like a David Cronenberg horror movie in places where restraint and intellectual rigor are called for … The line between realized artistry and mental disorder can be blurry, and this is where the filmmakers, particularly Aronofsky, lose control and come near turning ’Black Swan’ into a full-blown psycho movie. Every object becomes a potential weapon. Blood is everywhere. Yet the more flamboyant the movie gets, the less dramatic, and the movie’s lack of clarity in its fundamental psychological terms becomes a letdown. Yes, she’s cracking up, but how she’s cracking up becomes muddled.” — Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

The Final Word

“In lesser hands, the plot could be campy soapsuds. OK, sometimes it is. But Aronofsky, taking off from a script by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin, is a fearless visionary … ’Black Swan’ is a high-wire act for Aronofsky and Portman as they lure us into Nina’s tormented mind. The swirling hand-held camerawork of Matthew Libatique, coupled with a Clint Mansell score that channels Tchaikovsky’s ecstatic dread, adds to the whirlwind. At the center of it all is Portman. The actress, 29, trained in ballet as a child and drilled hard for nearly a year to master the choreography and do most of her own dancing. Portman’s portrait of an artist under siege is unmissable and unforgettable. So is the movie. You won’t know what hit you.” — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Black Swan.”

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