‘Black Swan’ takes a dive as a movie

Let me say right off, I’m not an expert on movies. In fact, I’m not an expert on much of anything. I do like movies, though, and love watching them. Even bad ones. But sometimes, even bad ones are hard to take and “Black Swan” was one of those.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Natalie Portman, “Black Swan” was more an exercise in frustration, idiocy and just plain crappy storytelling than anything else. I will say that Ms. Portman’s portrayal was compelling and worthy of the academy award. But I didn’t care about her, her co-stars, her mother or anybody else. I just didn’t care.

I remember when I saw “Born on the Fourth of July,” the biography of Ron Kovic, who was the paralyzed in the Vietnam war and became an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for. Sounds like an interesting idea for a film.And it was directed by Oliver Stone.

“Black Swan” sounds like an interesting idea for a film. The lead character in the famous ballet, perhaps the most famous ballet, “Swan Lake” becomes so transfixed with becoming the character she actually thinks she is becoming a swan. Or something like it.

What happens in both films, though, is that it’s a one-note song. Loud crying. Loud yelling. Loud music. It’s just damn loud. There is no humor. No moment to take a breath; just volume turned all the way up. God, what a crappy movie. Both of them.

It was two hours of hysterical hallucinations by a young lady whereby “self-obsession” is a polite understatement. It’s a verbal torture test as if the phrase “Love ya. Mean it,” was hitting your eardrums like droplets of water hitting your forehead, over and over and over and, still, over again. I think they call it a Chinese Torture test. I hope that phrase is not considered inappropriate. That movie, “Black Swan” was like a Chines Torture test. No question about that. Bad news.

One of the great elements of good story telling, it seems to me, is subtlety. That is not Aronofsky’s strong suit. Certainly, not Stone’s strong suit. They don’t have any subtle suits at all. Just yelling suits. It’s almost as if they don’t believe anybody will get it because they don’t – deep down  – get it; they know it’s way too one-dimensional, so they scream. Maybe if they scream loud enough, somebody will hear them.

Good story telling, like with a John Steinbeck or an Arron Sorkin, does not require yelling. A whisper will do because the story is. It’s the story, stupid. The story.



About stevewhitmore

Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor's lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division's Judge Advocate General's Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975.
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