Black Swan (2010)

Rated: R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.
Length: 108 minutes
Grade: D,F,D,C=D
Rotten Tomatoes: 88% favorable, 8.2/10 average
Budget: $13 million
Box Office: $345 million (107 U.S., 220 Intl., 18 DVD)

Written by: Mark Heyman (First script), Andres Heinz (First script), and John J. McLaughlin (Man of the House)
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream, and Pi)
Starring: Natlie Portman
With: Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder, and Barbara Hershey.

A very devoted ballerina is challenged by the demand that she play both swans in Swan Lake, the pressure of which sends her over the edge of sanity and sexuality as she tries to become perfection in uniting two incompatible characters.

Despite wanting to quit this disturbing, unpleasant horror story of a ballet film no less than four times, I finished watching it for two reasons. First, knowing that it had received so much critical acclaim, I kept secretly hoping that something in the ending would atone for and validate everything I had to endure in getting there. Second, if this did not turn out to be the case, I wanted to with full confidence be able to assure any of you who might be tempted to watch it but have not yet done so that you do not need to for any reason. I’m beginning to think that most film critics are masochists. The more uncomfortable and ugly and horrific a movie is, the more they like it. I am not afflicted with this particular perversion. So for me, this movie was simply torture. Even if it hadn’t had several very disturbing sexual scenes, the main plot and the development of the themes are so frustrating that I neither care about the characters nor enjoy watching them behave in such deranged ways. I really don’t need to watch a bulimic infantilized ballerina pluck a feather out of her back to believe that some people in this world are troubled. Yes, I recognize that Aronofsky has turned the plot of the movie into the plot of the ballet. Der. Yes, I realize that he loves to deal with tortured characters who devote themselves tragically to whatever they consider greatness. Of course. But it just doesn’t always work, even if you score by Oscars (5 nominations, with 1 win). The Wrestler made a point despite its vulgar roadmap. Black Swan just puts the audience out of our misery by finally ending. I was absolutely stunned that Christianity Today’s Brent McCracken summarized it as “A beautiful and engrossing ballet thriller, though slightly over-the-top.” Slightly? What would truly over-the-top be?

Discussion Questions:
~Would you accept insanity if that were the price of greatness?
~Do you think that sexual repression is a key ingredient for madness or greatness?
~Do you think Nina wound up happy or satisfied with herself? What about her mother?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~I’d rather not, actually.

Overall Grade: D
A disturbing, gross, uncomfortable, and NC-17 movie highly overrated because, apparently, modern art critics think film-watching should hurt. That’s how you know it’s good. No, that’s just how you know it hurts.

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