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Black Swan (2010)

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 108 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Like any young boy growing up in a grim suburb in Northern England, my dream has always been to become a ballet dancer. I yearned to wear a pink tutu and dance my heart out in front of a troop of skinny, anaemic girls. The bleak depiction of ballet in Black Swan has finally destroyed this dream.

The story follows Nina (Portman), a hard-working but none-too-successful ballerina who finally gets her first big break when she is cast by sleazy but brilliant artistic director Thomas (Cassell) as the lead in ‘Swan Lake’. Initially this is a dream come true, but when she struggles to adapt to the darker role of the ‘Black Swan’, faces competition from a confident new dancer (Kunis) and has some major fall-outs with her pushy mummy (Hershey), Nina begins to lose the plot and get in touch with her dark side.

Black Swan is essentially The Wrestler for girls as Darren Aronofsky gives us another mix of over-the-top commitment to a dream and the brutal realism of the trails that can get in their way. Many fascinating themes are touched upon, including self harming, the expendability of dancers, and industry bitchiness as the movie compels throughout. Natalie Portman is excellent as the angsty dancer as she transforms gradually from a whiny, insecure girl to an uber-bitch who will do anything to play the part. The supporting cast and Portman and Kunis also do a brilliant job with the stage scenes so even a non-ballet loving yokel can be entranced by the dance set pieces.

Although undoubtedly an impressive film, I couldn’t help thinking that this was just a slightly more artistic version of the incredibly awful Showgirls. The main reason for this is Vincent Cassel’s slightly hammy, clichéd dance instructor which ruined swathes of the film and events that happen throughout the film that are a staple of girl-gone-off-the-rails roles.

It's Got: Interesting themes, impressive ballet set pieces, very skinny girls showing lots of ribs and cheekbones

It Needs: A different kind of dance instructor rather than Cassel's cliché


Ballet but not as you know it, this cross between The Wrestler and Showgirls falls just short of greatness.