Friday, February 4, 2011

Natalie Portman in Black Swan

Natalie Portman received her second Oscar nomination (the first one in the Best Actress category) and has an excellent chance of winning her first Oscar for playing Nina Sayers/The Swan Queen in Darren Aronofsky's Best Picture nominated movie, Black Swan. Natalie won tons of awards for this role and many consider her a sure thing for the win, since everything is for her (lots of awards, lot of movies coming out this year, pregnancy, they LOVE pregnant actresses). And yes, it would be awesome to see her win, however, I will only believe it when I see.

Black Swan is a great movie by which I was totally blown away for the first time. For the second time, I found it a little bit boring. It was still awesome in many ways and I loved almost everything about it but for the first time it's much-much better. It richly deserved all its nomination and if there was real justice Darren Aronofsky would win Best Director and Matthew Libatique would get Best Cinematography. It would be just awesome to see this movie sweep. It won't happen, though. The supporting ladies (Mila, Barbara, Winona) are all very-very good, though none of them would have deserved a nom. Only Barbara Hershey, maybe. Her mother/monster is just terrifying.

I always felt that Aronofsky's movies are a bit about providing the lead actors with great roles and possibilities (see Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream or Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler). I feel the same here, too. Everything about this whole movie depends on the performance of the leading performer who's Natalie Portman in this case. To tell the truth, Natalie is not an actress I would have picked for such a complex and strong role. I used to feel that she was kind of limited and very well may be, however sometimes limited actresses give the most knockout performances. We'll see if it's true. Only time will tell. Plus, I have to judge only this work of Portman.

The role of Nina is so complicated and she's quite difficult to handle for the first time. Personally, I expected something very loud and over-the-top but the performance of Natalie Portman is extremely subtle for the most of the time. There are a couple of shouting scenes but those are probably the outbreaks of the Black Swan in Nina. Natalie so thrillingly inhabited Nina Sayers and this is one of those cases when I see the star totally disappear into the role. She's so fabulous and there's something so divine and superior about her. Nina is so full of anxiety and fears and Natalie so terrifyingly shows the dark sides of Nina.

In the beginning, Nina acts as if she was twelve or something. She has this very close and, I dare say, sick relationship with her mother. The interactions between Natalie and Barbara are mindblowingly great. I mean, in those scenes, I got to know the motives and emotions of these two characters so well and I also got to see how miserable and lonely they are together. They are like little giggling girls. Erica definitely wants that and I think, deep inside, Nina also wants to get on with this relationship. There are two very exceptional scenes that totally ingrained in my memory. The first one is when Nina calls her mom after getting the part of the Black Swan. The second is where Erica discovers the scars on Nina, rips off her clothes and drags her into the bathroom. There's so much humiliation and fear inside Natalie in that scene that I dare say it is one of the best acted scenes ever in the history of this category. I felt so deeply sorry for Nina there. Natalie instantly won my sympathy and that's a really great achievement.

There's another scene which so thrillingly shows how (sexually) frustrated and coward this girl really is. Yes, that's the very frequently talked about masturbation sequence. Again, a terrific moment as Natalie shows so much of this character: her narcissism, her fear of sexual intercourse with another person. If you put a black piece of paper on the screen under her, you would think she's having sex. She's indeed having sex with herself, her Black Swan self and that's quite probably one of the first encounters between the White Swan Nina and the Black Swan Nina. Portman's presence throughout the scene (and the whole movie) is so suggestive and expressive that I could analyze her character much-much longer.

Talking about expressive: her dancing is just mindblowing. If we forgot everything else and concentrated only on her ballet scenes, we would still get a terrific performance. Her movements always fit the given scene and the Black Swan dance is so hard to write about without giving the pleasure away. It's brilliant, I may say.

Natalie so brilliantly developed the character of Nina until the real breakdown. That "It's MY TURN!" fight scene is a brilliant symbol of that. Nina becomes so obsessed and crazy about this role that she does something with terrible consequence. NOW STOP READING THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE! STOP! STOP! STOP! When she gets that piece of glass out of her stomach, Natalie is so damn mindblowin. The timing of her tears is so flawless and so well executed that it gave me creeps, literally.

So after all, I can say that Natalie Portman, an actress whom a did not consider a real talent, kicks ass as Nina and gives a performance that has the strength of Mo'Nique in Precious, Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose. If she wins, it will be hard for the next winner to live up to the standard she showed. A terrifying, brilliant performance after which you feel being hit by a full-guided tour bus.
Rather easily.

I know I said that her review comes in two weeks, but I decided to do this NOW. I will rewatch her then so...


Louis Morgan said...

I have seen her once, I think this performance really requires careful review, just do to the oddity. I am not sure of her performance at the moment, she certainly is something I will give that, but what that something is would require another viewing.

She will win though, there is character precedence. Ronald Colman's winning performance in A Double Life, surprisingly has a lot similar character aspects.

dinasztie said...

This performance is very hard to judge as you expect something different from it. First it might be more subtle than you originally thought and therefore it can cause disappointment, I think. I loved her for the first time, too, but it took a repeated viewing to truly discover this performance and the brilliance in it.

Double Life's a movie I always wanted to see, but I can't find it. :(

Anonymous said...

Well, I'll hush up for now :)

But, your well written review certainly makes me want to see it again.

Anonymous said...

This performance has nothing to do with Mo'nique's or Marion's.She is good,near the end great,but very overrated.Film is entertaining trash and screenplay is terrible.But the academy always love this type of performances so no doubt she'll win.The other four actresses have harder job to do in terms of actressing.

Anonymous said...

I understand your views but I personally thought this was a case of just really, really good casting and a director using the actress very well than truly fantastic acting. Still a very good and perplexing performance.

joe burns said...

I thought the screenplay trips her up a little bit and in some moments she's a bit sloppy, but overall, she was fantastic, giving a strange, layered, and deserving performance. But I really need to rewatch, to get my thoughts on her (And especially the rest of the movie)straight.

Allen said...

I thought she was splendid. The last 15 minutes or so are just brilliant.

dinasztie said...

Joe: Yes, you should rewatch her. It's very hard to judge for the first time, she can easily be underwhelming. The second time is much better.

Anonymous said...

Well, she's obviously going to win, and I completely agree with you, I think she was brilliant, especially in the piece of glass scene, and the scenes involving her mom, great review and I agree with you that it deserves more than one watch to fully appreciate how brilliant it is. 5 Meryls for me as well. Amazing review!

dinasztie said...

Anon 2: thank you so much! You're really nice.

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