Opinion Brief

Why is everyone talking about 'Black Swan'?

Critics may be split on Darren Aronofsky's ballet-world thriller starring Natalie Portman, but they can't stop discussing it. Here are six takeaways

Black Swan, a "psychological thriller set in the world of New York City ballet" starring Natalie Portman (Garden State, Closer, Brothers) and directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream), opens today in select cities. Since the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September, the buzz surrounding it has been steadily building — with some critics drooling over the movie while others dismiss it. An exquisitely gory trailer only fueled the speculation. Here's how the chatter breaks down:

1. Natalie Portman should win the Oscar
"It is inconceivable that she won't win the Oscar for Best Actress" says Andy Klein at Brand X. She's always good, but this film "gives her the chance to break through to another level."

2. But the movie is not that good
Outside of the dance scenes, "Black Swan is trashy and incoherent," says David Denby in The New Yorker. "Aronofsky, for all his gifts, is a gaudy maestro, opportunistic and insecure as an artist."

3. It's pulpy
"Black Swan is lurid and voluptuous pulp fun, with a sensationalistic fairy-tale allure," says Owen Gleiberman in Entertaiment Weekly. "You can't take it too seriously, but you can't tear your eyes away from it, either."

4. It's like an arty Showgirls
Black Swan is a "near-irresistible exercise in bravura absurdity" that "deserves to become a minor classic of heterosexual camp — at the very least, it's the most risible and riotous backstage movie since Showgirls," says J. Hoberman in The Village Voice.

5. No, more like The Wrestler in a tutu
"In The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky crafted a battering ode to male masochism, to the notion that one is truly, ecstatically alive on the brink of self-obliteration," says David Edelstein in New York. "Now, for the perfect insanity-inducing double bill, comes that film’s female counterpart, Black Swan."

6. It's a horror flick in a high-class setting
"Don't be fooled by the rarefied milieu: Black Swan is one of the best, lushest horror films since The Shining, worthy of every inevitable comparison to the high-minded creep-outs of Cronenberg, Polanski and Lynch," says Greg Evans at Bloomberg. It's "ballet as blood sport... as gross as it is frightening," with bloody scratches appearing on Portman's back and "disgusting little black threads erupt[ing] from her skin."

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