Film Review: “Excuse Me, Who Are You?”

review

Note: as part of Throwback Thursday, I’m posting this piece I wrote October 25, 2011, for my LiveJournal blog. I am planning to slowly move over anything of substance from LiveJournal to this one, with plans on turning the LiveJournal into something else.

Black Swan, written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, & John J. McLaughlin; directed by Darren Aronofsky. Copyright 2010: seen October 24, 2011. Buy at Amazon.com.

As I wrote in my review of Inception, I am a big fan of the mind fuck movie: movies that aren’t all what they seem to be, where you get a new perspective every time you watch it, and after seeing it for the first time, you have the inevitable reaction of, “What the fuck???”

I had heard about Black Swan as a screwy movie (most notably – again – thanks to TV Tropes), and was debating back and forth whether to give this movie a try. And thanks to Rich sometimes following male stereotypes, the rumors of Natalie Portman’s lack of clothing had him wanting to watch it. So, we finally threw it up on the Netflix queue, and watched it.

For anyone out there who’s seen the anime Perfect Blue (which is one of the best mind fuck movies out there, IMHO), you’ll recognize my review title as a quote used periodically throughout it – and that is fully intentional. There are a lot of similarities between Perfect Blue and Black Swan: it’s about someone in the world of performing (pop idol moving over to acting in one; dancer in the other) who has been guarded, maybe a little bit too much, by parental figures, who get a part that changes how they see themselves (the rape scene for one; Swan Lake for the other) and spiral into madness accentuated by a recurring motif (the color blue – obviously – for the first; the use of mirrors and the idea of an ‘evil twin/black swan’ for the second).

But instead of this being something bad, I’m actually finding that a compliment. It was similar, but in all the right ways – and different enough to be its own piece. Natalie Portman fully deserves her Oscar as the fractured ballerina Nina, playing her growing awareness of her ‘dark side’ and sexuality close to the chest. In fact, her masturbation scene was HAWT – even for me. Barbara Hershey, as her mother, played the ultimate stage mom that only has Rose from Gypsy as an equal for pure driven insanity. And Mila Kunis, as Lily/potential black swan was so good, that when I went on IMDB, my reaction was, “That was JACKIE from That 70s Show????”

The story is frightening, not in a Halloween way, but more in a Blue Velvet, “you can’t believe people are like this” kind of way, and I can’t say too much more about the movie without giving away the plot. Needless to say, I said, “This is messed up!” more than once. If you think this is a dance movie, you will be sorely mistaken – dance is just the backdrop to this intense thriller, and is just a plot device much like the ear in Blue Velvet.

As I mentioned, the use of mirrors (as well as the colors black and white, to represent the two swans) are used very effective throughout the movie – in fact, if and when I do decide to re-watch Black Swan, I want to pay closer attention to the mirror in Nina’s living room, as I want to say it had more facets as the movie progressed.

If you’re a fan of the mind fuck, definitely put Black Swan on your list: I was happily impressed by the movie (the DVD gets a bit of a thumbs down, though, as there were no special features, and I would’ve loved an interview with the director and/or writers to go into more details of what exactly we just watched), and heartily recommend it.