Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s breathless fever dream about the world of ballet, is equal parts brilliant and ridiculous. And because it’s been short-listed for Oscar and has received near unanimous critical raves, I'm going to go ahead and focus on the ridiculous part first.
I mean, has anyone else noticed that this film, while compulsively entertaining and formally beautiful, is also about as subtle as a clog dance?
Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a soloist with an unnamed ballet company, modeled after the New York City Ballet. The company’s director, the Balanchine-esque Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is casting a new version of Swan Lake. You see, the former prima ballerina Beth (Winona Ryder) has been put out to pasture and Leroy wants a new star.
The uptight, sheltered Nina would be perfect as the White Swan—the virginal half of the Swan Lake equation. But Leroy fears she’s not sexy or uninhibited enough to play the White Swan’s dark, libidinous other half, the Black Swan.
He casts her...