She’s Done it! After only 1 previous nomination the delightful Natalie Portman has all but assured her place on the Oscar walk of Fame by picking up the highly dubious, but highly visible, Golden Globe Best-Actress-in-a-Drama-or-Documentary-or-Pet-Show-or-Aeroplane. That she did so without being taunted by the hilariously acerbic Ricky Gervais as he roasted, er hosted this years ceremony simply proves that she is Americas little sweetheart. This win virtually closes the books on the Oscar providing that Warren Beatty doesn’t pull any strings to get his wife another award. And Hilary Swank is always dangerous at the pointy end of the season even if nobody knows the name of the film she is in. Colin Firth appears to have closed out the best actor category with is victory in “The Stuttering King” or whatever it’s called. As a result any suspense regarding the 2 premier acting statues would appear to have deflated as the critical and popular plaudits continue to flow almost universally towards these two fine actors.
Not having seen the King’s Speech as yet i cannot comment on the merits of Mr Firthses reprisal of King George the 9th, or whatever, though all signs point to a resounding win, Bridges or no Bridges. I can, however, expound liberally on why Natalie Portman should win for her pirouette in Black Swan. And i will…
But first, for those of you who have not yet seen this film, a short description. But you really should see it though, it is excellent.
Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is an unusual film, a seeming hodge-podge of sexy-thriller, decent-into-madness-psychodrama, dancer-coming-of-age, and intimate-look-at-the-torturous-world-of-ballet. It is a difficult film to describe, never mind categorise.
I would describe it in Player-speak as Fight Club meets Center Stage… with a heart.
The film revolves around a prestigious New York Ballet company as they prepare to launch a new season with that old toe-tapper Swan Lake. Natalie Portman plays Nina, a gifted but naive dancer, who wants this to be her breakout role but has to convince the sexy-but-sleazy choreographer Thomas (played by french guy Vincent Cassel, about whom i know nothing) that she can be the temptress the role of the Black swan demands. He insists she confront her awakening sexuality in order to fully inhabit the role when along comes the Dark and sexy Lily (Family Guys’ Mila Kunis… you know, the voice of Meg?). After some mild hanky-panky between Nina and Thomas she is cast as the title role. From here Nina starts to unravel and becomes progressively more unhinged, loosening off into fantastic hallucination sequences and an increasing sense of paranoia. This all culminates in a wonderful ballet-within-the-film-within-the-ballet dance number finale that features Nina achieving perfection as a real swan and aggressively making out with Thomas between numbers. I won’t reveal the final twist, needless to say it involves a swan…
As i said earlier it is a film that almost defies description without seeing it for yourself but it is the enthralling performance of Natalie Portman that… well, enthralls the audience for the duration.
She takes us inside Nina’s cossetted little world, helps us to feel her naive innocence and her deep love of dance. We feel her pain as she undergoes the rigors of professional ballet and the strain that places on her body (her pain was not solely acting either – there is a scene where Nina is receiving physio for an injury but in fact this was an unscripted sequence filmed after Natalie suffered a rib cartilage injury and received on set treatment from the New York Ballet physiotherapist on site). Portman inhabits Nina so completely that we cannot help but feel her righteous anger as she breaks her mothers hand and then twists it to escape after being locked in her room. When she cries, you want to cry with her – genuinely, without the interference of an obnoxious score. During the love scene between Nina and Lily you feel the unbridled release of sexual tension as she does. It is the sensitivity with which Natalie portrays Nina that is most startling. Her shy restraint makes the other actors in every scene look a wooden by comparison. No disrespect to Kunis et al but Ms Portman is literally acting on a higher level here.
Undoubtedly Natalie is a very attractive woman and has exactly the right flavour of demure to be convincing as the virginal White Swan but that is what makes her eventual transformation to the Black Swan so very powerful. That and some excellent make-up and visual trickery from Director Aronofsky. Bur still…
So in conclusion, having seen all the competition for this years best Actress race – except Nicole Kidman whom i shall soon be watching in Rabbit Hole – this year is a lock, It’s Natalie all the way for mine.
P.S. Kidman uses Botox – it’s official!