Conventional wisdom dictates that “Black Swan” is a thriller, but I can’t help but feel like it’s not only a horror movie, but one of the best horror movies ever made. Darren Aronofsky’s warped take on 1998’s “Perfect Blue” is blessed with an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime performance by the always-reliable Natalie Portman, who does some career-best work as a ballet dancer whose dedication crosses from the pathological to the psychotic. In the first 30 minutes or so, her performance is highly controlled and distant but as the movie progresses and she’s essentially required to haunt herself, it comes together so powerfully that it’s impossible to imagine the film with a different performer in the role. The same goes for a never-better Mila Kunis as her warmer counterpart, not to mention an eerie, menacing Barbara Hershey as her controlling mother, while the narrative benefits enormously from a brief but excruciatingly intense cameo by Winona Ryder as an aging dancer circling the drain. There are also shades of early Roman Polanski everywhere (particularly the paranoia that’s central to “Repulsion,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Tenant”) which serve to heighten the suspense and tragedy inherent within the narrative, but Aronofsky manages to recall the director’s work without succumbing to superficial mimicry.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)