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A fevered dream of a movie, "Black Swan" is Darren Aronofsky's follow-up to his Oscar-nominated Mickey Rourke vehicle "The Wrester," and boy does it deliver. Hypnotic, brutal, exhilarating and seductive, "Black Swan" is sure to satiate the appetite of Aronofsky ("Requiem for a Dream") fans, and will no doubt attract many more.
Set within the competitive and draining world of professional ballet, "Black Swan" tracks the rise of prima ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman) to the top of the ranks after she lands the coveted lead role in a New York production of "Swan Lake." But all is not roses for Nina. Treated at home like an infant by her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey), and loathed by her peers in the company, Nina struggles to hold on to the role as soon as she nabs it.
"Swan Lake" requires that Nina play both the innocent White Swan and the seductive Black Swan. While she has no problem tapping into her vulnerable sweet side, she struggles to let herself go and embody the darkness that lurks in the Black Swan. With the aid of a new member of the company Lily (Mila Kunis), Nina embarks on a journey to uncover the beast that lies within.
It's safe to say that you've never seen Portman like this before. Racketing up her voice a few octaves higher than usual, Portman's Nina is so high strung and hell bent on being "perfect" it's suffocating to watch; mostly because Portman makes Nina's struggle so palpable. Her eventual metamorphosis into her darker self is truly something to behold.
Unlike Nina, Portman owns the role from the outset. It's no wonder her performance is being touted as an Oscar frontrunner in the Best Actress race.
Aronofsky, meanwhile, directs "Black Swan" like a ballet, infusing his thriller with the music of "Swan Lake," and building towards a climax that's operatic in scope. Aided by a gritty, handheld style, similar to his approach in "The Wrestler," Aronofsky shows the blood, sweat and tears that goes into the mounting of a ballet production, and is not afraid to go bold and all fantastical on us in portraying Nina's tormented mind. As she begins to go off the deep end, Aronorfsky does too, pulling out all the stops for a finale sure to leave you on a high.
Take the plunge with this bird. Just make sure to breathe.