In a noted ballet company, Nina (Portman) is a rising star who's up for the lead in a new production of Swan Lake. She's fiercely aware of the fact that the previous lead ballerina (Ryder) has been casually discarded while younger newcomer Lilly (Kunis) is already threatening Nina's position. Or is Nina just being paranoid? As opening night approaches, Nina begins to clash with everyone around her, from Lilly to her mercurial director (Cassel) and domineering mother (Hershey). And reality starts slipping out of her grasp.
As with The Wrestler and Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky takes us deep into the mind of the central character. We experience Nina's crippling self-doubt in ways that are unnerving and sometimes horrifying. As she prepares for her starring debut, her perception spirals wildly out of control, and in Aronofsky's hands the result is thrilling cinema that has us gasping at the audacity of it all. The way he lyrically blends the ballet with the backstage drama is literally breathtaking, weaving Clint Mansell's original music with the classic Tchaikovsky score.
But is Nina paranoid, or is Lilly really trying to steal her position? This blurred question allows Portman and Kunis to skilfully bring the script's detailed layers onto the screen (although Aronofsky helps them with insinuating sound and visual trickery). Meanwhile, Cassel delivers another of his fearlessly complex performances, and Hershey and Ryder are terrific as rather unstable older divas.
This is a haunting, intimate film that blends fantasy and reality to cleverly explore how it must feel to rise to a level of celebrity that most could only dream of. Watching Nina let go of her innocence is truly terrifying, leading to an intense final act that will leave audiences shattered (and either loving or hating the film). In the end, it's a provocative, powerful story about how you might have to completely lose yourself if you want to be a star.
Run time: 108 mins
In Theaters: Friday 17th December 2010
Box Office USA: $107.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $327.8M
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight
Production compaines: Dune Entertainment, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Cross Creek Pictures, Protozoa Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Fresh: 237 Rotten: 36
IMDB: 8.0 / 10
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Screenwriter: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John McLaughlin
Starring: Natalie Portman as Nina, Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy, Barbara Hershey as Erica, Mila Kunis as Lilly, Winona Ryder as Beth MacIntyre, Chris Gartin as Handsome scott, Ksenia Solo as Veronica, Toby Hemingway as Tom, Janet Montgomery as Madeline, Kristina Anapau as Galina, Marcia Jean Kurtz as Costume Mistress, Deborah Offner as Susie, Adriene Couvillion as Violinist, Shaun O'Hagan as Stage Manager, Sebastian Stan as Andrew, Benjamin Millepied as David, Sergio Torrado as Sergio, Mark Margolis as Mr. Fithian, Tina Sloan as Mrs. Fithian, Abraham Aronofsky as Mr. Stein, Charlotte Aronofsky as Mrs. Stein
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