Sunday, September 25, 2011

Black Swan: Is It Me, or Was This Just Fight Club for Girls?

So I finally got around to watching the movie "Black Swan."  (Better late than never, right?)  Months after the Oscar hype and Body-Double Gate, all I really knew about this movie was that Natalie Portman was supposed to be really good in it, the Rodarte ballet costumes were beautiful, there was a lesbian love scene, and people generally thought this movie was well done.

I'm left scratching my head at this one.

Natalie Portman?  Great actress?  Check.  She pretty much always brings it, and I have nothing bad to say about her.  Even with less-than-stellar scripts (The Other Boleyn Girl), she does memorable things that transcend the material she's given.

Costumes?  Yeah, they were there.  They were nice.  That's pretty much all I can say about them.

Lesbian love scene?  Sure.  Whatever.

A well done-movie?  I'm not so sure.  The movie felt stale to me, like it could have been something awesome, but it never really cohered.  The strange visions Portman's character had were creepy in a kid-on-a-tricycle-in-The-Shining kind of way, but they started to annoy me about an hour and fifteen minutes in because...nothing else happened.  The tension didn't advance or heighten.  The same weird shit kept happening, yet I'm supposed to sympathize with a character who doesn't take any action when she sees mirror reflections that don't move the way she does or bloody appendanges randomly appearing when she's in the bath?  I mean, come on...she doesn't consult a doctor or shrink or go buy some illegal meds from a guy on the street to see if maybe, just maybe, they make her feel able to concentrate on what's supposed to be her dream?  I'm supposed to believe she just lets all this crap happen?  And if so, I'm supposed to sympathize with someone who lets her world go to pieces without doing anything about it--strictly on the merits of Portman's performance?  No.  The writers must do better than this.

Okay, maybe there's some psychological element here, like her mind fractured under the pressure and she had to become someone else in her mind to deal with it all.  Tyler Durden much?  Been there, done that.

At the end, when we think she's killed Mila Kunis's character, I was finally thinking, okay, this movie is going somewhere.  This poor, pathetic character finally *did* something to help herself.  (Plus, Mila Kunis's character was kind of annoying, so I was happy to see her go.  I'm a fan of Kunis in general, but there wasn't much to this character.)  Then, we find out that not only did Nina *not* off the competition, she offed herself.  Dude.  Again, this is Fight Club, and we've seen this before.  I hated Fight Club, and I'm not inclined to like this version better because it has feathers and tulle.

If the writers wanted to create a movie about a young woman's psychological stressors in the world of ballet and psychotic break those stressors caused, I get the sense it could have been riveting--especially if they made the character a more active participant in her own life.  Poor Nina just had things happen to her.  In a creative writing class, we'd be told this is a bad idea.  Basically, the movie is static.  The weird visions begin to overtake her.  They continue while she does nothing to help herself.  Because of those weird visions, she kills herself, and then thinks she was "perfect" because....why?  Her dark nature fully emerged?  And allowed her to harm herself?  Aren't dark natures usually about getting people to harm others, not themselves?

The whole thing gave me a headache and lingering sense of disappointment.  Just like Fight Club.