First of all, I think Natalie Portman is a good actress, i think her acting in ‘Brothers’ (a super film you should watch) was Oscar-worthy. So this is not a diss against her as an actress. I do think it’s disappointing that she couldn’t make this role break out of the stereotype box, considering she worked on this screenplay for so many years, it’s baffling, because it is SO BAD. I thought she was better than that, smarter, she’s an educated activist after all! If she doesn’t get gender stereotypes which actress will? I found her acting in this, aside from the short scene of her on the phone in the bathroom stall, rather boring, un-nuanced and definitely not Oscar worthy. The film should not get ANY awards. period.
Black Swan is a very cliched, stereotyped and simplistic portrayal of the misogynist gaze. Virgin Mary vs Mary Magdalene. It pits the virgin against the whore, the white swan against the black swan, the innocent good girl against the naughty bad girl. And it does it in such an uninteresting unprofound and unsubtle way. Frankly, it’s boring. We know these are the dichotomies instilled in our social conditioning, good girl, bad girl. Yawn. And both of them are crazy, friggin LUNATICS. And so is Winona Ryder’s character, she’s nuts too. So is the mom, mad. ALL THE WOMEN IN BLACK SWAN ARE CRAZY NUTTERS. Of course they are, there is a long history of sexism dismissing women as being mad. We don’t need to go into Foucault and madness but that is why I chose to use the term ‘LivLunatics’, as a pomo play on words of this definition of female madness, as a way to make fun of it, because it is so trite.
As long as the mad cliched dichotomied women look good, they serve some purpose. We can watch them masturbate and make out with each other wearing their undies. Attractive crazy young females playing bi, that is really something fresh and new, I think that should get some awards. NOT. Nevermind it feels like a TV teen film, and there’s no character development or interesting plot or story. Did she imagine it all or it did it happen- WHO CARES? It just doesn’t matter either way, so unlike Inception, which was really clever, I have no incentive to think about it or be intellectually engaged.
What about the ballet part then, did that redeem the film? Because I used to dance ballet, I was looking forward to this film for months, finally a ballet feature film! YES! I couldn’t wait, though the trailers were ominous, I thought this has to be awesome. And I was so gutted that all it ended up being was pointless creepiness. There was no beautiful dancing (if you are a ballet fan and have seen the best ballerinas in the world you’ll agree that the dancing was cringe-worthy and not refined). Mila Kunis & Natalie Portman are only convincing ballet dancers if you are good at suspension of disbelief. The story of Swan Lake was turned literal- wow, that is some deep shit. I would’ve never guessed that. The white swan actually dies, she really kills herself. Arronofsky dude that is so profound, really, that’s it? That’s what we wait for all film long one cringe worthy scene after another, and that’s it. That’s the big twist to this classic story. Ugh. So lame.
Yes I kept thinking about the film for several days after I saw it, because I was hoping to find some redeeming qualities in it. The mother-daughter relationship? Cliche. The pervy French head of the ballet. So cliche. The interesting swanbumps on her skin and the way she turns into the Black Swan, wow that is a gross visual effect, not enough to warrant sitting through the film. Her cutting and scratching herself. Cliche, of course she does, she’s a perfectionist. Her masturbating and then seeing her mom was sitting right there, sleeping, so creepy, insinuation of incest. It’s bad, it’s really bad, and I can’t believe it’s getting such great reviews. I hope The Fighter wins, because that was a brilliant film- moving, entertaining, amazing story, character developments, strong females. Go see it.
For more on why Black Swan is sexist and lame: