Monday, December 20, 2010

Black Swan: hate

a review by Kelly

Black Swan has one of the freshest ratings on Rotten Tomatoes' current chart. It's got award nominations, critical praise and excellent buzz. And once again I'm left as that weird reviewer over there who just doesn't get it. (This feels like another Slumdog Millionaire, a film which I fundamentally didn't like, about which absolutely no one agreed with me). I hated Black Swan. And I don't mean mildly. I found it stupid, obvious, pandering and pretentious. I will grant that Natalie Portman, Barabara Hershey and Mila Kunis all deliver fabulous performances and that there are some interesting visuals. That is as far as I will go for this strange genre piece that feels like little more than avant-garde Oscar fodder. 

The whole thing was absurd. A good thriller pulls you in; if you find yourself sitting cross-armed telling the characters how to get their act together, it's probably not a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I really do enjoy a good psychological thriller, and no, I am not one of those people who went in expecting a different genre then was annoyed with the film's style. I just think this was a bad psychological thriller.

Thematically, Black Swan works as a fascinating follow-up to 2008's sublime Aronofsky film The Wrestler. But while that film was one of the most subtle and intelligent I've seen in years, Black Swan hits you over the head with THEME and GENRE and ART the second you sit down. From the mandatory early shots of dancers savagely prepping their toe shoes to the overly-crescendoed Tchaikovsky score to the gratuitous intermingling of all things heavy breath worthy (dance, sex and violence- oh my!), Black Swan is a study in lack of subtlety. Is there anything less inventive than dressing your ingenue all in white and gradually introducing dark elements to her visually as she spirals into grey moral territory?! Seriously people, character by numbers isn't a game for adults!

The central premise of the film (or rather, the film's only plot) is the psychological meltdown of  Portman's Nina, a girl plagued with mom issues, sex issues, food issues, self esteem issues (not-discussed but definitely relevant absent father issues) and a whole other host of crazy. In reality, Nina has to deal with a douchey but otherwise inoffensive director (Vincent Cassel), an absurd diva (Winona Ryder, in a terrifyingly over-the-top performance), a perfectly nice but I suppose mildly threatening "rival" (Kunis) and a crazy mother (Hershey)... oh, and I suppose the immense pressures of getting exactly what not only you wanted but literally asked for. Essentially, every problem in the film would go away if the girl could take the simple advice of "Get A Fucking Grip!", something I felt like shouting perpetually during the painful 108 minutes.

***SPOILER ALERT***
It's worth noting that if Nina's "murder" of Lily (Kunis) had real consequences a lot of my issues would have been made much smaller. With such an unlikable heroine and no true villain, it would have been a lot more compelling if she'd had a victim other than herself (the ambiguous Lily is the perfect candidate). As it is, the only person who gets hurt is Nina, who (no empathy here) brings it largely on herself and thus, cold, heartless me simply doesn't care. Apathy- not good.
***END OF SPOILER***

So I know no one agrees with me, but my hatred of this film knows very few bounds. If a film's going to be that unpleasant to watch, it has to teach me something, or inspire something. All Black Swan inspired was anger.

17 comments:

chocolatepie said...

I just wanted to comment to say "I agree!" The moment the credits started to roll, I leaned over to my friend and said, "It's like they made that movie just to make me angry." I'm still irritable. It was Not Good.

Kelly said...

YAY, I'm so glad there's someone else who didn't like it!

Elizabeth said...

Glad to find your website, and read what you think of this bore of a movie. I couldn't help but feel that many of the important scenes setting up issues, problems between mother-daughter, were just plain cut out. And that lesbian scene was "thrown in" to make the movie more sensational, and talked about. Actually seemed geared to teenage girls. They could have shown her as a child being forced to take ballet, to live the life her mother had to quit due to her pregnancy, etc. And like dream scenes where they can throw in anything unbelievable, they did this with all her imaginings..... very easy way to make a movie, that doesn't have to be intelligent, and make you think, or learn something.
Have always noticed Natalies delicate beauty, but No charisma as a prima ballerina, an insult to REAL blood and gutts dancers.
To enjoy a movie I need to believe the characters, not always be aware of script shortcomings, or casting.......
People will rave about this, because they think they are Supposed to, like looking at modern art and seeing what the artist was trying to say.... I wonder what Joanne Woodward thought of this silly movie, she knows and promotes the Real thing.
Well, maybe it's just me.
So Hollywood done, always so obvious, dumbing down of......

DGAF said...

Oh my god I am so glad to have found someone else that didn't like it. I agree completely with all your points. The whole film was just a mess and there really was no point in going through it all seeing as she didn't have a defined enemy and she got exactly what she wanted. The whole time I just wanted to tell her to Shape up. It's saddening seeing all the raving reviews for it because, as Elizabeth said, they think they're supposed to like it because it's "fine art." I hate seeing such conformity in society

Augie Ray said...

I feel exactly the same way--but I'm afraid I loved (or at least really liked Slumdog! Still, I felt Black Swan was a bad psychological thriller for the art house set who normally wouldn't shell out bucks to see big-budget psychological thrillers.

Thomas said...

Your "spoiler" nailed the problem with the movie.

I never really felt a part of this one. I was always acutely aware that I was watching a movie (not to mention my wristwatch).

james said...

Yes! I completely agree with Elizabeth and most people who have commented. I found the film stressful and gave no real resolution to the most relevant psychological issues that it set up, why the did the mother-daughter issue just fizzle out?! It was a terrible movie a 2 hours of my life I will never get back.

mslmc3 said...

I found the film stressful too James. I found the the way it was directed thoroughly annoying. I didnt care for the main character and the only satisfying part of the film was that she killed herself at the end.

Lucas Maciel said...

Oh, my god... I'm not alone.

Barbara said...

Thanks for going against the grain and voicing your opinion!! I couldn't figure out why the heck everyone loved this silly movie. For me, the worst moments were when the dancers tried to literally dance like birds and were flapping their 'wings' --- how stupid!!!!

it's so bad that is was almost entertaining simply in its badness (kinda like showgirls, remember?)

Shirin said...

I'm glad I found others who experienced the same thing. The movie was exhilarating and silly. I couldn't bare to watch the movie anymore.

Before I watched the movie , I was happy in jovial way , and then after watching the movie I felt immensely gloomy and morose.

Natalie Portman's performance was certainly good , but I was a lil discomforted to watch her soo skinny , the other ballet dancers in the company seemed to look slim in a normal way , While Natalie Portman looked anorexic.

And yea , the camera chases her way to much , after a while I was like....wow wow SPACE up!!

Shirin said...

Sorry 'not' exhilarating...

Janet said...

Bravo! Finally someone who agrees with me about this film! Obnoxious, pointless and Natalie gives us one face throughout until the very last moment. Best actress?
Thanks for letting me vent!

Sherri said...

FINALLY....found a site where people thought it was as over the top, not believable-one-expression only Natalie (think "Scream"...the painting, not the movie)....an award? What, were they on crack when they gave that to her? I LOVE her work....in other things...but this...this was a slap in the face to dancers everywhere....the stage mother from hell, self destruction, and her flaying arms above her head couldn't land her a part in the chorus, let alone as principal...puleeze!!!!!

medemj1455 said...

Oh thank you! So nice to see that I wasn't alone. I would rather have a root canal than ever watch this again. That is not an exaggeration. It was a disaster and I wish I could have my two hours back. My friend just sent me the spoof of Jim Carrey as The Black Swan. Hysterical! To get rid of the anger after watching BS, I suggest googling Jim Carrey as Black Swan.

Candy Lynn said...

This movie is abysmal. I watched half (forced myself) and finally fast-forwarded through the scenes, so happy that I was missing them. Even sped up at 50 times, I was too annoyed and bored to finish so I googled it to find out how it ended. How does anyone stay for the whole nauseating thing? I love art house movies. This one was melodramatic, pretentious, and dull, dull, dull.

Sugar Magnolia said...

Absolutely agree. What made me most mad was what how they wasted such an evocative and beautiful piece of music. I had to fast-forward more than half of the film. Such juvenile trash. =(

(Also don't like Slumdog Millionaire. =D)

A much greater paean to ballet is Billy Elliot.