I always like her. Natalie Portman. Very smart and talented. From her Padme Amidala in the Star Wars trilogy, to Closer, to V for Vendetta, and as the cunning (The) Other Boleyn Girl, who... lost her head.
So when I read that she trained for months to prepare for this role, it wasn't at all a surprise that she eventually got all these awards for playing an ambitious ballerina dancing the white and The Black Swan in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.
I think the first time I saw Swan Lake was on TV. It was Miss Piggy's version on the Muppet Show, where she danced opposite the legendary Rudolf Nureyev. She called it...Swine Lake. Ha-ha-ha!
But unlike Miss Piggy, Portman really looked the part. She moved, danced and acted like a real ballerina, complete with lean limbs, broken toenails and a pushy mother. Ha-ha-ha!
When I learned that Portman's name in the film was Nina, I immediately thought of ABBA's cute song, Nina, Pretty Ballerina! How appropriate! And I waited during the whole movie for that song, but they didn't include it. I guess ballerinas weren't used to dancing to ABBA. Ha-ha-ha!
So, it's all about Nina and her ballet company's new production of Swan Lake, and all the cut-throat competition, literal and figurative, manifesting in and out of her head.
She dances in this dark ballet, and the dark ballet in turn dances inside her head, where she does her pirouettes and arabesques alongside psychosis and hallucinations, helping her transform into the perfect black swan required of her by the ballet director. Yes, it's a balletic psycho-thriller with Tchaikovsky's music in the background.
Those prima ballerinas who eventually won the role of the swan queen took them years and years of training. Portman was able to win it with six months of training (while preparing for the movie), and by biting the ballet company's director's lips.
The best part of the movie: The last 15 minutes when Nina loosens up, dances the role of her ballerina life, and with creative make-up and costume, turns into a black swan on stage complete with black feathers, driving her pushy mom to tears.
The saddest part: Watching Winona Ryder play a has-been ballerina. She was the toast of Hollywood with all her previous awards and Oscar nominations...until she decided to shoplift at Saks Fifth Avenue in 2001. Really sad.
Well, Natalie Portman is the swan queen, and on Sunday night, she will also be the Oscar queen.
Till the next movie!