NATATLIE Portman plays ballet dancer Nina in this psychological thriller from director Darren Aronofsky (the Wrestler). She’s just landed the lead role in Swan Lake: it’s The Biggie. Notorious for being mentally and physically exacting, the challenge is made even tougher when the talented Lily (Mila Kunis) joins the company. She’s everything that the awkward, chaste and nervous Nina is not. And she’s a threat.
Nina must portray both the innocent White Swan and the menacingly seductive Black Swan. Naturally more suited to the former, she’s compelled to embrace the darkness of the latter to bring the part alive. Slowly, a metamorphosis takes place.
But it comes at a price. Her already tentative grip on reality deteriorates: consumed by jealousy of Lily and by the brain-frazzling intensity of the role itself, reality and fantasy begin to blur. Is she being followed? Is Lily out to get her and her lead role?
Black Swan is an entertaining watch, especially when, in tandem with Nina’s transformation, the movie recasts itself as a horror picture – an unsettling face-stabbing slasher with added pliés. Portman’s manic performance is impressive, the costumes, make-up and cinematography are stunning, and the haunting whispers of sound design engrossing.
But the Portman-centric script leaves the supporting cast under-developed, and the tonal shift jars uncomfortably. Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream was infused with innovation. The Wrestler boasted nuance and genuine poignancy. But Black Swan – with its predictable and unconvincingly melodramatic script – has none of these. It seems a step backwards as a result.
IN this formulaic but likeable romantic comedy, Rachel McAdams is a sassy young TV executive charged with reviving an ailing breakfast show called DayBreak (sound familiar?). She recruits high-brow journo Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to co-present with former beauty queen Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton). For a minute it even looks as though Morning Glory might be about to make an insightful contribution to the serious news vs populist entertainment debate. But no: Becky discovers that tacky gimmicks boost ratings, Ernie the weatherman gets his bottom tattooed and the only conclusion Morning Glory draws is that winners dumb down.
There’s plenty that’s questionable about Morning Glory, including the crass double entendre of the title (not that anything else in the film is remotely risqué). But the film does make you smile: the joie-de-vivre of McAdams’s performance and the bitchy interplay between Ford and Keaton make it worth a watch.