Nearly all the critics were dazzled by Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky's ballet thriller starring Natalie Portman as a dancer who falls into madness:
- "One of the best movies of the year," declares Andrew O'Hehir on Salon. Expect Oscar nominations for Portman, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, and a number of the crew. "Aronofsky himself should walk away with the Academy's directing prize, in large part because he takes a clumsy, crazy script—which seems to combine The Red Shoes, All About Eve and a woman-centric rewrite of Aronofsky's last film, The Wrestler—and makes a memorable near-masterpiece out of it."
- Natalie Portman gives "a smashing, bruising, wholly committed performance" in "this dementedly entertaining film," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "Black Swan is visceral and real even while it’s one delirious, phantasmagoric freakout," and Aronofsky is especially to be praised for showing a certain "lack of reverence toward the rarefied world of ballet, which to outsiders can look as lively as a crypt."
- This film "is a full-bore melodrama, told with passionate intensity, gloriously and darkly absurd," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. "The main story supports of Black Swan are traditional: backstage rivalry, artistic jealousy, a great work of art mirrored in the lives of those performing it," but Aronofsky and Portman delve into her character's increasingly confused mind and "follow this fearlessly where it takes them."
- One of the few negative reviews comes from Kenneth Turan at the Los Angeles Times: "This tale of feathered ambition starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis as dueling ballerinas is not just any kind of trash, it's high-art trash ... In fact, the only problem with calling Black Swan sensationalistic and over the top is that it makes this shameless shotgun marriage of The Red Shoes and Roger Corman sound like more fun than it is."
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