Black Swan (2010)

Director: Darren Aronofsky

By Marilyn Ferdinand

As an intelligent, fairly analytical, and perhaps too serious-minded writer, I try very hard not to let my feelings get in the way of assessing a film as objectively as I can before letting my gut render a final verdict. But try as I might, I just can’t seem to push down a bad case of the giggles every time I think about Black Swan. I think about the great Natalie Portman and her expressive face and interesting interpretation of an immature ballerina digging deep and going a bit mad to dance a seductive role. I remember that despite my antipathy for Tchaikovsky’s “greatest hits” composition “Swan Lake,” the ballet has poignancy and is a classic in the repertoire. I even try to remember that I liked the boldness and visual acuity of Darren Aronofsky’s Pi (1998). Then I start giggling again. It’s really unforgivable, and I feel I owe you an explanation for this highly unprofessional behavior.

To wit, what would you do if you were facing the creative challenge of your life and the person in whose hands you’ve placed your trust, success, perhaps even your entire future, told you to “Touch yourself. Live a little.” See what I mean?

That, word for word, is the assignment Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), supposedly the world’s most dynamic new leader/choreographer for a company elite enough to be performing at New York’s Lincoln Center, gives Nina Sayers (Portman), his newest prima ballerina, to prepare her to dance both the White Swan and the Black Swan in his new interpretation of “Swan Lake.” And like a well-trained dancer, she does exactly as she is told. And just as she’s getting into it, she sees her mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) asleep in a chair in her room, freaks, and hides under her covers. Thanks, Darren, we might not have seen the mommy issues without this wet dream of yours on screen, oh, except for the pink room filled with stuffed animals you put them both in and the music box with a pop-up ballerina dancing to Swan Lake Erica opens next to Nina’s bed every night to help her get to sleep.

It seems an affliction of today’s vanguard film directors to look for the source of personality and creativity in the fertile fields of the unconscious that were successfully mined by such masters as Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Luis Buñuel, and Maya Deren and come out with episodes of Dr. Phil. We’ve had Christopher Nolan’s simpleton dream vision Inception (2010), Banksy’s passé critique of the art world Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), and now Aronofsky’s deeply conventional Black Swan.

In a nutshell, Aronofsky recycles the basic story of the Powell/Pressburger masterpiece The Red Shoes (1948)—a Svengali-like head of a ballet company aims to turn a promising young dancer into a star in a radical, new ballet, with her destruction the final outcome—but completely infantilizes his dancer and turns his Svengali into a garden-variety male chauvinist pig. Although Natalie Portman is nearly 30 and looks and is quite mature, she is playing someone 10-12 years younger than herself, judging by where Nina is in her career. It seems normal to me that she would be rather sexually naïve given her age and the truncated social life her career demands. But that’s just horrible! In this film, you can’t be a great dancer unless you’re sexually mature, whereas Moira Shearer’s character in The Red Shoes became famous and then was considered ruined by her Svengali when she fell in love and wanted to get married.

Another way in which Black Swan is conventional, even retrograde in its psychology, is that it blames Erica for Nina’s “pathology” of innocence. The script even makes her a ballerina whose career was cut short by getting pregnant with Nina (no doubt by the head of her ballet company!), suggesting jealousy as a motive for Erica’s possessiveness. Erica’s character is written to be genuinely concerned about her daughter, but Aronofsky turns her acts of caring into brutal repressions—for example, seeing that her daughter has returned to a bad habit of nervously scratching her skin raw, Erica drags her into the bathroom and clips her fingernails in a manner that suggests she might just pull them out by the roots.

That’s not the only problem with Black Swan. Telling an uptight young woman she needs to get laid is a common enough slur, one that’s been around for a long time. Abusive, powerful men also never seem to go out of fashion. But to have a choreographer in the dance capital of the United States import Lily (Mila Kunis), a dancer from San Francisco, to compete for the Swan Queen role he eventually bestows on Nina and become the object of another of his wet-dream scenes—one in which Nina imagines she’s having sex with Lily—suggests San Francisco is the city that “reads” gay to the straight world. In fact, Nina seems to be the representative of Straight World U.S.A., which Aronofsky appears to be whipping for being so conservative, but his clichéd handling of this story is conservatism itself.

His actors are generally adequate to great in this film, with Cassel looking and acting rather weasely in an underwritten role, Kunis perfect as a breath of fresh air in the hermetically sealed world of the dance, and Hershey brave in a thankless part. Despite being directed to speak in a shy, little-girl voice, Portman brings nuance to a role that requires her to go rather crazy, and uses her amazing eyes to bring fire to the scene where she triumphantly dances the Black Swan to unrealistically delirious ovations from the crowd. Portman has trained in dance since the age of 4, but she doesn’t suggest an elite level; Aronofsky wisely keeps the camera trained on her face, which does dance with emotion.

Where Aronofsky truly shines is in his depictions of breakthroughs of the unconscious. Nina’s hallucinations start gradually—seeing her mother’s painted self-portrait move, pulling at a hangnail and tearing a long strip of flesh from her hand—and build until she believes she has killed Lily and stuffed her body in a closet. These visions, which increase in frequency and intensity, perform the almost obligatory blurring of fantasy and reality found in so many films today, but they are completely justified by the story. Unfortunately, Aronofsky doesn’t know when to quit. He makes the audience real participants in Nina’s private hallucinations by creating a superfluously ambiguous ending that has us question what we’ve seen. It’s a conceit that Aronofsky is really playing with our unconscious when his story offers nothing archetypal for us to react to. He’s in way over his head on this one, but not deep enough in ours.

  • Greg F spoke:
    1st/12/2010 to 5:00 pm

    I almost want to see this now to see if it’s as hilarious as this review makes it sound. It sounds like the kind of blunt force drama that Alan Parker used to do. Maybe Aronofsky has picked up the torch.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    1st/12/2010 to 5:08 pm

    I generally like a number of Alan Parker films. This film was enjoyable to me for Portman’s performance and what little dancing Aronofsky allowed to be shown full body. It’s a pretty jejeune work for someone in his 40s. It would be almost offensive if it weren’t so silly.

  • Pat spoke:
    1st/12/2010 to 7:25 pm

    I’m not an Aronofsky fan – I flat-out hated “Requiem for a Dream,” and never have understood why some people worship “The Fountain.” The buzz on this one was so great (at least from Andrew O’Hehir at Salon) that I thought I might love it, but now I’m not so sure.. Having just rewatched “The Red Shoes,” I can’t imagine that this looks good in comparison.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    1st/12/2010 to 7:42 pm

    It doesn’t come anywhere near The Red Shoes. It’s enjoyable for some of the hallucinations and Portman’s performance, but you’ll be frustrated by the snippets of dance that never resolve into a real performance, and Cassel’s character is practically hissworthy.

  • Vanwall spoke:
    1st/12/2010 to 10:04 pm

    It always helps when a dancing film has dancers as leads – real dancers, professional career ones. No dilettantes, please. I’ll wait for the cable showing.

    Strangely enough, I thought of “The Red Shoes” and this film tonight while watching the 1939 “Stagecoach” – yeah weird, I know, but at one point towards the end, a stuntman portraying an Apache on horseback is reloading an old Springfield rifle, a difficult thing enough at rest, but this was at full gallop plus, and it’s like watching an artist, as he lifted the block and reached back for a cartridge. Just that little tiny part of a movie, and I thought that it was an almost balletic set of movements, and that’s when I thought about the professionalism of Moira Shearer, and i wondered if “Black Swan” would approach that level. Actual skill is the requirement.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    1st/12/2010 to 10:46 pm

    Van – I really get what you’re saying. I was impressed with Mila Kunis, who took a crash course in ballet for this role – she could have been a natural. The actress who most impressed me with her movement is Nancy Kwan. She’s so fluid, so commanding of attention just walking up a hill in The World of Suzie Wong. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actress move that well, and it is something to remark upon. I prefer dance films to have dancers in them, but some actors do rather better than I expect.

  • Tony Dayoub spoke:
    2nd/12/2010 to 9:04 am

    Hey Marilyn. Greg suggested I come back and read your review after he read my positive take on it. I guess he wanted to stir up some trouble, or a debate at least. But despite completely disagreeing with your perspective on the film, I can’t invalidate it. Your points about Aronofsky’s immature, chauvinistic approach to the material are well reasoned.

    I believe the difference in our opinions is in how you and I approach BLACK SWAN. Your arguments suggest you took the film on in a much more literal-minded way than I did. And I’m not suggesting you were oblivious to its expressionistic qualities. In a way I can’t quite put my finger on, the film forces you to make a choice in how you see it. Either you view it as a flawed, gritty take on the rigors of ballet and how they affect this particular character, or you choose to view it as a Freudian nightmare of a woman contending with her repressed sexuality with the world of ballet serving simply as a backdrop.

    I chose to view it from the latter perspective. And found it easier to elide over some of the film’s deep flaws. Within the context of cinema, I found its relationship with films such as REPULSION and the “William Wilson” segment of HISTOIRES EXTRAORDINAIRES signal Aronofsky’s conscious decision to work in a heightened, melodramatic world fully in keeping with the film’s balletic venue. It’s a similar argument to the one I use to defend GODFATHER III, the admittedly lesser film of the series but by no means a disposable one. If GODFATHER III is a little trashy, a little too on the nose with its timely social relevance, it is because Coppola is emulating the verismo genre of opera, a genre where melodramatic depictions of contemporary events was typical.

    I don’t know if you were a TWIN PEAKS fan as I was, but in some ways, Aronofsky’s approach to BLACK SWAN and viewers’ split reactions to it reminds me of the mixed reactions to Lynch’s film sequel, FIRE WALK WITH ME. Fans of the show were turned off at the grimy, oversexualized, melodramatic method in which Lynch imploded their beloved world. But those elements were always present in the show. He simply decided to “turn the volume up” on them in order to explore his concerns. Years later, with preconceptions virtually erased given the large amount of ink expended on analyzing the film, FIRE WALK WITH ME is being rehabilitated as Lynch’s depiction of the fever dream of a young woman caught up in her own Freudian sexual ambivalence.

    To sum up, I agree that much of what Aronofsky attempts falls short, especially in view of Freud’s growing obsolescence in the world of mental health and given that the director may lack as much sensitivity to a feminist perspective as Freud may have. But as a marker on the road of psychological horror cinema, I submit that BLACK SWAN will stand tall in the years to come.

  • Greg Ferrara spoke:
    2nd/12/2010 to 9:24 am

    I guess he wanted to stir up some trouble, or a debate at least.

    I certainly wasn’t try to stir up trouble, I hope no one really thinks that. I said to Tony:

    Tony, you should read Marilyn’s review at Ferdy on Films. It’s a good example of how two viewers can walk away from the same film with completely different takes. I’d like to see you and Marilyn exchange ideas about what you think works and doesn’t work.

    Anyway, I thought it was interesting to see such different opinions of the same film and look forward to reading the discussion.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    2nd/12/2010 to 9:25 am

    Tony – Thanks for stopping by and sharing your point of view with me. It’s interesting that you brought up Freud because in an earlier draft of this article, I considered the shallowness of today’s psychology, the self-improvement pop psych offered by people like Dr. Phil as an influence on today’s filmmakers, where previous generations had depth psychoanalysis to bring richness to their visions.

    This statement of yours really struck me as a false dichotomy:

    “Either you view it as a flawed, gritty take on the rigors of ballet and how they affect this particular character, or you choose to view it as a Freudian nightmare of a woman contending with her repressed sexuality with the world of ballet serving simply as a backdrop.” Indeed, I, like you, viewed it more as the latter than the former, but you can’t simply throw the background out with the bathwater and say Nina’s artistic expression through dance is irrelevant to the journey she is taking. It is through art that she is artfully losing her mind – all artists must let their creations live through them.

    I didn’t watch Twin Peaks, but I know Lynch’s themes and see a maturity in his handling of them that don’t exist in this film. I read people all over the place calling ballet melodramatic, but as a former dancer, I think I question that assessment of it. Dance is a deeply felt interpretive art to me, not one that dwells on the surface to illuminate more universal truths. Of course, flashy, crowd-pleasing choreography could be seen as “melodramatic” in its superficiality, but one could not accuse Swan Lake, and certainly not the type of ballet Cassel’s character was going for, as such. I realize I might have a different view to the more casual patron of ballet, but it inflects my review here.

    Psychological horror we can agree on. Whether Black Swan will stand tall only time will tell.

  • Tony Dayoub spoke:
    2nd/12/2010 to 9:36 am

    Greg, I was joking. I got what you were going for.

    Marilyn, maybe I was wrong in applying that dichotomy to you. But I’ve seen many arguments against this film derived from the first perspective I lay out. So I’m not sure it’s false.

    “I know Lynch’s themes and see a maturity in his handling of them that don’t exist in this film.” I’ll give you that. He definitely seems to be in touch with his subconscious more so than most.

    I don’t think your background as a dancer should be used to dismiss your point of view. Your life experience is your life experience. But I do wonder if it colors your view of the film more negatively than it would for your average film critic. I saw the same thing occur with many veterans who were appalled at the depiction of their day-to-day work on the field in THE HURT LOCKER. Yet as a film I thought it was a rather good one.

    Thanks for your response.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    2nd/12/2010 to 9:46 am

    Tony – I always hope for discussion in this site’s comments, and don’t see this as an argument. As for other arguments that set up the dichotomy, I can’t speak for what other reviewers say, only myself. I have to look at this film as a whole and assume that ballet is not irrelevant to the thesis, considering how important winning this lead role in an important new interpretation of Swan Lake would be to any dancer. One thing people forget when they talk about Moira Shearer’s reluctance to accept the role in The Red Shoes is that she was just starting to get the principal roles she always dreamed of as a dancer. Dance was her life, not movies, and she had arrived. Why interrupt that for a one-off? I can attest to the all-consuming nature of dance to those who do it.

  • Greg Ferrara spoke:
    2nd/12/2010 to 10:12 am

    Greg, I was joking. I got what you were going for

    Just making sure. Didn’t want anyone to get the wrong impression.

  • DeeDee spoke:
    3rd/12/2010 to 9:55 pm

    Hmmm…Methinks this film is going to end up with mixed
    By the way, Marilyn, here goes a link to the New York Times Review of Aronofsky’s film…The Black Swan.
    New York Times Review

    …and here goes a link to my other blog where I mentioned this film along with my writer, Andrew’s review of Powells and Pressburger’s “The Red Shoes.”

    The Red Shoes

    [Postscript: I truly feel “silly” “brandishing” their [Aronofsky, Powells, and Pressburger] names around since I never watched any of Aronofsky, Powells and Pressburger’s films yet…(With “yet” being the operative word.)

    Even though Sam Juliano have send me copies Of both The Red Shoes and The Black Narcissus I have yet to watch both films.]
    Thanks, for sharing!
    DeeDee ;-D

  • Marilyn spoke:
    4th/12/2010 to 10:11 am

    DeeDee, you must watch both. They are truly masterpieces.

  • Sam Juliano spoke:
    4th/12/2010 to 1:07 pm

    I’m not sure I know what Tony is talking about when he asserts that the reviews on BLACK SWAN are “split.” Split as in 90% favorable and 10% negative? Yeah, that’s a split all right.

    In any case, I don’t mean to come off as snippy as Tony has penned a magnificent lengthy comment in response to yet another Marilyn Ferdinand gem.

    Can I offer anything more substantial at this time? Not until tomorrow I’m afraid. I have tickets to see the film this evening with my weekend entourage at 8: 00 P.M. in the Chelsea Cinemas, after my first appearance at the Takemitsu Festival downtown.

    As I have opined many times in the last few years, THE FOUNTAIN is a staggering masterpiece, which I consider as one of the most spiritially fullfilling and devastating experiences I’ve ever navigated in the cinema.

    I’d venture to guess that BLACK SWAN is right up my alley, but we’ll see; the proof will be in the pudding. I’ll end by alluding to MacArthur’s rallying cry.

  • Sam Juliano spoke:
    4th/12/2010 to 1:08 pm

    Thanks for alluding to those two Dee Dee. Marilyn of course is dead-on.

  • Sam Juliano spoke:
    4th/12/2010 to 9:27 pm

    How could I have doubted my friend Marilyn Ferdinand’s summary appraisal?

    Well, as I stated in a previous comment here, I consider THE FOUNTAIN as one of the most extraordinary films of recent years, and I do respect Aronofsky’s first two films. I liked THE WRESTLER too, though I thought most people overstated its ultimate worth.

    BLACK SWAN is often ludicrous, when it isn’t being tedious and emotionally stagnant. There’s some tension, and Portman has some arresting hallucinatory moments, but it all adds up to a colossal misfire, which practically trivializes the great classical composition that lies at the thematic and narrative essence of this thinly veiled (exploitative) genre piece.

    You were right to snicker my friend.


  • Marilyn spoke:
    4th/12/2010 to 10:15 pm

    Thinly veiled (exploitative) genre piece – I couldn’t have said it better myself, Sam.

  • Kevyn Knox spoke:
    4th/12/2010 to 10:39 pm

    I am in total non-agreement with Marilyn (as evidenced in the quite gushing – and quite long-winded – review up at my site) but that doesn’t mean I do not see her points and understands why she is making them (not to talk to you in the third person). I am not going to throw my own hat into the proverbial psychobabble ring (I will just end up looking the fool as I normally do in such things – my sarcastic tendencies leading to brusque and cheap one-linerisms) but just let my own review (if one chooses to read it) speak for itself – and in a way explain my own thoughts on Aronofsky’s reasons for doing what may be construed as masochistic and/or misogynistic (and actually probably are in many ways!) to others. Perhaps he does beat us over the head with certain things and ideas, but then in many ways, so did Bergman and Antonioni and even Powell & Pressburger. Anyway, I said I am not getting into it so I will not. Allow me to just say, even though I did not agree with many of your thoughts on Black Swan, I do highly respect you as a writer and critic and do see why these different ideas have surfaced.

    Viva la difference!

    As for other thoughts…

    Granted, though the comparisons are obviously there, and though I do love Black Swan (tentatively no. 2 on my Best of 2010 List that will soon make its appearance), The Red Shoes is not only a much superior film, it may well be my all-time favourite.

    Oh, and I am a lover of The Fountain too – but that is another story for another time.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    5th/12/2010 to 9:06 am

    Kevyn – I had read your own delirious review of this film when you first published it and am very happy you enjoyed your experience so much. I don’t hate this film, not by a long shot, so your statement, “I am just glad I am in the love it camp, because I do not think I could survive watching this film otherwise,” does not ring true for me personally. If I could have seen this as a horror movie plain and simple, I would have probably been agreeing with your rapturous assessment. Alas…

  • Kevyn Knox spoke:
    5th/12/2010 to 9:16 am

    I have noticed that those into the world of dance have liked this film less than those who are not into that world (just like veterans and The Hurt Locker, as Tony had said earlier).

  • Marilyn spoke:
    5th/12/2010 to 9:43 am

    Kevyn – Yes, Tony is right. We see this as a workplace situation as well as an artistic venue, and I personally resent that the sexual harassment is never commented upon. I also think the mad genius artist has been done to death and is a gross distortion of the many ways artistry manifests in individuals.

  • Kevyn Knox spoke:
    5th/12/2010 to 4:44 pm

    As far as the sexual harassment not being commented on, I think that is a pretty apt statement in itself, since more oft than not (and wrongly so of course) such harassment is not reported, forestalled or fought against and instead, just like in the film, is accepted as the norm – or at least a variation of the norm.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    5th/12/2010 to 5:12 pm

    Kevyn – I’m not so sure about that. Since Anita Hill, I’ve seen women become much more assertive about such things. I know that I’ve spoken up about such problems, and completely cut off a whole group of friends who not only tolerated it from one of their new acquaintances, but piled on more. I really don’t appreciate films that perpetuate bullshit like this.

  • Pat spoke:
    6th/12/2010 to 8:24 am

    Marilyn –

    Havning now see “Black Swan,” I can assure you I am very much in agreement wtih your review. In the interest of balance, I continue to read the reviews offering effusive praise, but they don’t strike a chord with me.

    It’s a pretty jejeune work for someone in his 40s. It’d almost be offensive if it weren’t so silly.” This statement pretty much sums up my overall recaction. Portman, Hershey and Kunis were all wonderful – better than what was written for them in every case. I was frustrated by the lack of full-body shots of Portman’s dancing. It’s hard to buy into the the notion of the central character as a great dancer if you can’t really see the evidence. And I realize this is more of a psychological horror story than it is a true dance film…. but still.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    6th/12/2010 to 9:37 am

    I don’t know what I think of Hershey. She had so little to do, and Aronofsky made sure her cosmetic surgery was shown to its least-flattering effect. I wonder if he cast her for that very reason.

  • David H. Schleicher spoke:
    13th/12/2010 to 3:23 pm

    Wow – some interesting thoughts here.

    I think you got a bit hung up on some of the — ummm, okay, granted, juvenile — psychosexual underpinnings here.

    I also didn’t feel there was any ambiguity in the ending.

    Fantastic write up, nonetheless. The film certainly has spurred plenty of debate, as has your post here.

    For what it’s worth, here’s my full two cents:

  • Marilyn spoke:
    13th/12/2010 to 4:35 pm

    You didn’t think the ending was ambiguous? We see her bleeding in the midsection on stage. She runs up the stair and lands on her back, and her midsection is white again. Then we see her again with blood spreading and people going to get a doctor. How did she dance an entire ballet with a stab wound and not start bleeding until the last moments? Was she really wounded or not? Aronofsky is messing with US now, not Nina.

  • David H. Schleicher spoke:
    13th/12/2010 to 4:41 pm

    Marilyn – well, when you put it that way…I guess it could be viewed as ambiguous. I thought there was no ambiguity, however, in the context of the film and Nina’s meltdown…if that makes any sense at all.

    There was no ambiguity in the idea that Nina and Darren thought they had achieved a level of perfection with that ending.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    13th/12/2010 to 5:06 pm

    So if it wasn’t ambiguous, what really happened at the end of the film? Or is your perfection comment the “ending”? Hmmm.

  • David H. Schleicher spoke:
    13th/12/2010 to 7:57 pm

    Things that make you go hmmmm, indeed, Marilyn 🙂

  • oi spoke:
    20th/12/2010 to 11:52 am

    I think your opening comments about you giggling after watching this movie sounds fake and forceful. I don’t think that is an honest reaction not saying that your opinion (that movie is ridiculous) is invalid. Just saying that your reaction of giggling is not honest. It is like you want to be come across as different than everybody else and trying too hard. I too feel like story is ridiculous at times but not to the level of three stooges. Thinking this over may be you want to show that basic story on its own i.e. in its briefest form (without director’s touch and emotions, or w/o Natalie’s portrayal) is ridiculous. I agree with that too but somehow, I can’t fathom somebody coming out giggling from the theater or remembering Natalie’s Performance and giggling. Call me troll.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    20th/12/2010 to 12:32 pm

    You don’t know me, so it’s pure speculation on your part whether I really giggled. I did. I found the view of women in this film laughable, and I still do, though the reaction has died down as the movie has faded from memory.

    I think you’re just trying to diss me for your belief that I think I’m better than anyone who liked this film – like you. But then, I don’t know you either, so maybe I just dont’ know so much at that, right?

  • Jamie spoke:
    20th/12/2010 to 3:44 pm

    “I think you’re just trying to diss me for your belief that I think I’m better than anyone who liked this film – like you. But then, I don’t know you either, so maybe I just dont’ know so much at that, right?”

    but you are. just kidding. You are right to think this is a rather bad film. like I summed it up to a coworker: “I can’t imagine how any serious critic who has seen a lot of films could like/recommend this film. Unless of course your name is Peter Travers and you’re a huge tool!”

  • Marilyn spoke:
    20th/12/2010 to 4:16 pm

    Ha! Glad to know I’m not a tool, though if I were one I’d like to be a band saw and make all kinds of shapes in things.

  • oi spoke:
    21st/12/2010 to 10:01 pm

    First: Yeah I am dissing you because I have a personal bone to pick with you. You killed my mother! or I am the director of the movie and can’t stand any negative reaction about my movie!
    Second: Exactly. I don’t know you. All I have is this article you wrote to make any kind of impression. Frankly that was my impression. I guess I was trying to figure out the reason how anybody could have giggling reaction.
    Third: I would not bother replying but it really bothered me that you think that I somehow connected with the movie. Actually if you read my last comment, I mentioned it twice that I find the story ridiculous too and some of the scenes (not just lesbian sex scene) just cheap shots to sensationalize the movie. I guess the difference is, I found it ridiculous as in scoff worthy and not as in funny.
    If you really find it funny as in giggle worthy then I don’t know if anything I write would make any difference.

    So long!

  • Marilyn spoke:
    22nd/12/2010 to 7:15 am

    Oi, I’m sorry I suggested you liked the movie. Your comment indicates that you didn’t. But do you really think it is good form to come here and call me a liar? Is it that important to you that I scoff rather than giggle? The film is ridiculous. Why not laugh?

  • Colin spoke:
    22nd/12/2010 to 9:50 am

    I’m waiting for the unofficial statute of limitations to run out so that I can discuss the laughable scenes I saw in this awful movie. And yet it scored 8.9 on IMDb. I fear we’re standing alone.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    22nd/12/2010 to 10:05 am

    Colin – I don’t think we stand alone; IMDb certainly is no true arbiter of taste. I think the film stands up much better as a straight horror film. I’m very curious what Rod will think of it when he watches it. He’s the horror expert at this site and may have a completely different idea about what it offers. I couldn’t get past how it treated women and the profession of ballet.

  • Emmitt spoke:
    25th/12/2010 to 10:31 pm

    Of course every character besides Nina seems flat– we’re experiencing everything through her eyes. Like of course her mom is suffocating and trying to keep Nina from losing her innocence or whatever. Of course Thomas is a skeeze trying to corrupt her. Of course Lily is trying to steal her part. The film doesn’t give them more than that because that’s all Nina sees. She’s too absorbed in herself to really care.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    25th/12/2010 to 10:37 pm

    Who said every character but Nina seems flat? Not me. I said Lily was a breath of fresh air in this film – Mila Kunis was terrific. Other characters were underwritten, but there were clear delineations at various times between the world as seen by Nina, and the world present by an omniscent narrator, so to speak.

  • Emmitt spoke:
    25th/12/2010 to 10:54 pm

    Oops, I misread you based on your issues with Thomas and Nina’s mother. My mistake.

    Also, you’re right that there are some scenes that take us out of Nina’s mind and place us in the stance of an objective third-person viewer but the majority of the film is seen through her point of view. The only times her mother and Lily, for example, are made to seem much more sympathetic are during those objective scenes. Of course, I could be forgetting some important scenes and not know what I’m talking about at all.

  • Stephanie Lane Sutton spoke:
    15th/01/2011 to 3:18 pm

    Love this review and loved reading the debate in the comments. I referenced this post in my blog at

  • Doug Bonner spoke:
    17th/12/2011 to 5:33 pm

    UGH!! I finally caught up with this film. It combined the worst tropes (both in concept and technique) I’ve had to sit through in 20 years of student film judging with the most risible male fantasy of estrogen since SHOWGIRLS. It was a total non-win movie: if you know enough about life, you reject it as claptrap; if you know enough about putting a movie together, you reject it as sloppy and indulgent Because-I-Can filmmaking.


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