The Black Swan

Rated NR

Natalie Portman’s performance as a terminally insecure prima ballerina drives Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller, which isn’t that different a proposition than his portrait of another scarred (and scared) entertainer, The Wrestler. In her breakthrough “grownup” role after years of ingénue exercises, Portman portrays Nina, up for the lead part in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and bedeviled by a rival dancer (Mila Kunis), the ballet company’s director (Vincent Cassel), and her own neurotic mother (Barbara Hershey) – but Nina’s biggest problems are of her own making. Shades of Brian De Palma, David Cronenberg, Roman Polanski, and Michael Powell (The Red Shoes), but director and co-adaptor Aronofsky (with Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, and John J. McLaughlin, from Heinz’s story) definitely adds his personal stamp to the increasingly histrionic action. Major credit to all four main actors. Without them the story might never have achieved its unsettling, psychosexual power. (107 min.)

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