When done well, movies can grapple with complex issues such as sexual harassment, body dysmorphia, and eating disorders. They can blur the line between fantasy and reality, challenging our understanding of what is real. Movies can tell personal stories of jealousy and fear and parents who won't let their children grow up. They can give us a fresh perspective on the arts, as well as be works of art in their own right.
Unfortunately, Black Swan is none of these things.
Instead it's not much more than two hours of Darren Aronofsky's apparent misogyny that left the Presidents' Day matinee audience at The Grove - the upscale outdoor LA mall where I just saw it - stunned and immobile at the end. I'm going to be generous and assume that they, like me, were stunned by the fact that this movie is up for so many awards. That, and the fact that the movie equivalent of the New York City Ballet would have nothing but a mattress (a mattress?!) for their prima ballerina to plunge onto. Maybe that's why (half-ass spoiler alert) Nina dies at the end? Because there was a spring sticking up out of the mattress and she tragically impaled herself on it at the moment of her greatest triumph? (Helllooo worker's comp claim!)
Yeah, yeah, the movie is about losing yourself completely in a role. But why does that have to be carried out via ballet? Hasn't that movie, or likely a better one, been made about actors already? And even if that's what the movie is about, why is Natalie Portman getting so many accolades? Really, her acting in this movie is not much different than in The Professional 15 years ago. And when she went to Harvard, I once saw her walking across Harvard Square talking on her cell phone and crying, and she kind of looked the same then, too. (I did feel bad for her, for the record.) So clearly Portman has not lost herself in the role of Nina the way that Nina loses herself in the role of the Swan Queen. Why all the nominations, then? While likely connected to the "award attractive actresses who go ugly for a role and become unrecognizable" syndrome (see Charlize Theron in Monster and Nicole Kidman in The Hours) or the related "award attractive actresses for gaining weight to be more 'real'" (see - shudder - Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary), is all the hoopla really about Portman's recent ballet training and weight loss? Cuz in that case, let's just give Mark Wahlberg the Oscar, too.
I suspect all the buzz is likely related to some of what I talked about above, and is also related to how people think about ballet in our society. And let's face it, misogyny dressed up as high art is often rewarded. But honestly, I've already spent more brain cells on this movie than it deserves.
So I leave you with the SNL Black Swan skit. While not brilliant, it did mildly lift my mood.