This is the Scariest movie in the last five years. This is also a great reminder about why not to date dancers. Using visual slight of hand Darren Arronofsky takes on a journey through the downward spiral that is a performer's obsession to become perfect. Natalie, Barbara, Mila and Vincent deliver extremely well thought out performances, well crafted and detail oriented characters that always keep us on our toes about what their true motivations and endgames will be. Also, Winona did a wonderfully sublime job as an aging prima ballerina. If this is the kind of work she will be doing rather than Spock's mom I support a comeback.
I'll tell you why everyone is going apeshit about Natalie's performance, its not because she prepped to be a dancer it's because she lost Natalie along the way. She became the character rather than an actress. She allowed the audience to sympathize and feel for here and want to follow along, and then took us down a path where we began to cheer and jeer for here, we want her succeed and then we are disgusted by how she does it.
In the hands of a less skilled director this would have been chaos and heavy handed. His usage of black and white and then select pieces of color, particularly light pink, adds something to the background but in such a way that isn't an obvious device. The same story goes with his use of special effects. There is just enough to achieve the desired effect but it doesn't go overboard. In fact, often it is cut off before you can even see what is going on. The edits at times can be quite quick only giving you a glimpse into Nina's psychosis. Or long and drawn out creating a tempo that keeps the audience always an arm lengths away. Reeling us in and then letting us swim away and back and forth until we can easily predict what is to come next. The trick is once we predict correctly, the rules change and something unexpected happens.
Never before have I seen what is going on inside a character's head described so well visually. Perhaps I am forgetting something, but I don't think so.
My 5 favorite parts:
Nina discovering her mother asleep in the same room while she is masturbating. Terrifying.
The physical transformation, particularly the legs and feather, into a swan.
The window into what a performer and performances is like, a very real depiction of both.
The score. Dear God Clint Mansell is awesome.
The reason this movie didn't get a perfect score is due to the following reasons:
Nina describe her performance as perfect. Thing is she muffed the lift in the first act and fell and hurt her knee. So it was almost perfect. Maybe I am a bigger cynic than I thought but that really bugged me. I mean she cried about it and stabbed herself because of that one mistake, so.....almost perfect.
At times the grainy-ness of the picture took away, but they were few and far between and hard to avoid.
I didn't feel like Lily's story was resolved.
There were no jokes, I needed a little bit of relief from the drama. Lily got close but it wasn't lighthearted.
It was hard for me to take the scene outside the concert hall seriously, because that is where Bill Murray spins in Ghostbusters.
Okay that last one was bullshit: but see how humor helped break up the rest of the review...