I love a good head-trip drama and am an unabashed fan of Darren Aronofsky’s weird sensibilities. So I can easily list Black Swan as one of my favorite movies of the year. First off, I adore Natalie Portman, whose acting evolution has been so effortless, she’s bound to take home an Oscar before her 35th birthday. She’s also a damn sexy feminist. Sexy just because—well, look at her!—but also for never playing the slutty role for the sake of a magazine cover. Even her stripper in Closer was toned down, and she refused to compromise herself and appear naked—a decision for which much of the industry and world berated her.
In Black Swan, Portman plays a woman we all know (and can perhaps identify with, even if just a little): a perfectionist introvert who’s still a bit immature and will stop at nothing to be the best and reach her dreams. She’s faced with a startling degree of sexism and chauvinism—who knew ballet was so penis-driven?!—which she eventually smacks down to rise to the top. Despite how far her obsessions plunge her deep into the crazy, that’s a feminist message I can get behind.
Where the film loses my feminist support is in the depiction of how the female characters treat one another. OK, yes, it’s competitive to be a ballerina, but the stereotypical cat-fighting, bulimia, lesbianism and mother-daughter wars are played-out and I argue not even totally necessary to tell this story, which is all about the red-eyed obsession that so consumes Portman’s Nina, it’s both the source of her triumph and cause for her destruction. When Portman surely earns an Academy Award nomination for her role, it’s that part of her performance—and the woman herself—I’ll be rooting for.