Natalie Portman is gorgeous. And smart. And funny. And forever the quirky girl of every man’s dreams after her Shins-playing role in “Garden State.” And according to early reviews of “Black Swan,” Natalie may soon also be an Oscar winner. The flick premiered last night at the Venice Film Festival, and reviewers’ opinions of the movie as a whole seem to vary. But they all seem to agree that Natalie is amazing as Nina, a ballerina teetering on the edge when her company’s artistic director doesn’t believe she has the depth to play both the White Swan and the Black Swan in a reinterpretation of “Swan Lake” and brings in another dancer for the darker Black Swan part, Lily, played by Mila Kunis. Apparently, Natalie has been talking to director Darren Aronofsky about this part for almost a decade. One of the most talked-about scenes in the movie so far is a sex scene between Nina and Lily. Of the scene, Natalie says, “[Darren] talked to me about this scene in our first meeting eight years ago. He described it as: ‘You’re going to have a sex scene with yourself.’ And I thought that was very interesting, because this movie is in so many ways an exploration of an artist’s ego and that narcissistic sort of attraction to yourself and also repulsion with yourself.”
Natalie also went through a ton of ballet training for the flick. “Six months ahead of the film, I went into sort of hyper-training, where five hours a day I was doing both ballet and cross-training, with swimming, she says. A few months before was when we started getting into the choreography. It was very extreme.”
The payoff? Reviews like these:
“Portman has never been so cannily cast, nor so cunningly exposed, on screen … [L]ong a lissome, delicate screen presence, she has sometimes struggled with conveying intensity or purposefulness. Here, the role cleverly forces the actress into her most pinched, peaky mannerisms—even her little-girl voice is pitched an octave higher than usual—only to undercut them as the character gradually loses her self-awareness; the resulting performance is as dangerous, and oddly touching, as Portman has ever allowed herself to be.” [In Contention]
“Aronofsky pulls the best performance ever out of Natalie Portman as a tightly wound ballet dancer with no life who is so obsessed with moving up in the ballet corps that she splits her toenails from practicing, is painfully thin and scratches herself bloody with stress … Is she Oscar bait?” [IndieWire]
“In her acting, too, you sense she has bravely ventured out of her comfort zone to play a character slowly losing sight of herself. It’s a bravura performance.” [Hollywood Reporter]
“Centerstage stands Natalie Portman, whose courageous turn lays bare the myriad insecurities genuinely dedicated performers face when testing their limits, revealing shades of the actress never before seen on film.” [Variety]
What do you think? Will Natalie win Best Actress for this performance? She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Closer,” but left the awards show empty-handed.