An interesting thing about Black Swan is how many different potential movies are crammed into its actuality. For instance, there’s a not particularly compelling ballet movie in it, which is sad when you consider how much effort Natalie Portman told Terry Gross that she put into training for the physical aspects of the part. And then there’s a somewhat formulaic suspense thriller in which Portman vies with ballet company newcomer Mila Kunis for the dubious affections of the company’s French artistic director as well as the lead in the first show of the season, Swan Lake, while a tragically underutilized Winona Ryder looks on from the sidelines as the cast-aside prima ballerina from seasons past. And if you’re getting the impression so far that I found it okay at best, you’re right up to a point; I would have been pretty disappointed if I had been watching either of those two movies.
The movie that I was watching, which I more or less loved, was a psychological study of an obsessive mind pushed to the brink of utter collapse under a myriad of internal and external pressures. And I don’t want to say more than that, because it made for utterly compelling watching as each element unfolded. I’ve been on record in the past as approving of unreliable narrators in fiction. I think this is the first time I’ve seen one on film that wasn’t eye-rollingly bad; to the contrary, I hope Portman earns some awards over the next few months.