Being disabled, I’m rarely afforded nor able get to many movies when they premiere. Once in a while I get that rare opportunity to see “highly acclaimed” movies, namely, when I am hospitalized and/or recovering. Recently I got that chance, basically bedridden for hours to watch some of those. Here are my reviews of 3.
Black Swan- This movie was about some long in the tooth ballerina’s suffering from severe anorexia, all with varying degrees of desperation to have lead role in an allegedly career defining production of the Black Swan ballet.
The protagonist, Nina (Natalie Portman) the only 1 with any real chance, was a tortured young ballerina in her late twenties, saddled with another of the ballerinas, her mother (Barbara Hershey) who basically had felt the only way to realize her missed opportunity to have a lead role was to live vicariously through her daughter. It appeared Nina was stunted in her emotional growth by her overbearing mother , that had drilled in her head, nothing mattered but becoming what she had never become- a dancer with a lead role. To meet this end, we are lead to believe Nina’s controlling mother sheltered Nina so tightly that even though she lived in Manhattan, Nina was naive to the world around her. Nina’s mother frequently employed the technique of passive-aggressive manipulation by frequently reminding her, that she was forced to give up her hopes & dream by opting due to the pregnancy of Nina & her choice to have & raise her, presumably destroying her figure. The only way to make up for this atrocity according to “Mom” was for Nina to do it.
The second starving ballerina was former prima ballerina, Beth (Winona Ryder), who is presumably dumped, publicly by the artistic director of the ballet company. Thomas (Vincent Cassel), during his announcement to everyone, basically said Beth would not have the part. Apparently studying/working in ballet is so intense, there is no exit plan, so Beth goes off the deep end or at least exits the movie until later when we are no longer sure & I definitely no longer cared what had happened to her. Since I have never heard of a rash of former ballerina suicides I’m guessing this ballet company is breeding ground for disturbed women, I could be wrong. Then three is Nina’s understudy who also looks like she’s a slice of cheese between sanity and insanity. I going to call her Jackie from that 70’s show cause I don’t know how to pronounce Kunis.
Anyway, Jackie lures Nina away from the of her world of borderline crazy restrictive mother, takes her out for drinks, food & drugs, something Jackie seems very experienced with, but unrealistic for a woman her weight. Suddenly the audience isn’t sure what is real & what is not because after the drinks returning to Nina’s home, where her mother has been lighting Roman candles praying for her return, there’s a gratuitous dream like sequence where they have lesbian sex. But Moms doesn’t even seem to acknowledge Jackie’s presence so I was never sure if the sex happened in Nina’s fantasies or reality. I also think they downed many drinks & drugs without eating much & personally would have thought Nina would have been incapable of doing anything except throwing up all night as an inexperienced drinker, so she probably hallucinated the entire thing. I think its referenced the next day, by Jackie to Nina. (Nina,whose in almost full blown psychosis by this time) it was a hallucination , but I am not sure because frankly I was bored out of my mind.
At some point Nina starts hallucinating every competing ballerina she sees is her, even her own reflection which starts doing things she isn’t doing. She has sex with the head of the dance company, perhaps in some attempt to prove she’s right for the part of the black swan part of the ballet. He gives her the part , but sex not withstanding he rides her with humiliating nonsensical comments, that her dance doesn’t have enough emotion, in belittling annoyingly broken English. Presumably unaware that Jackie has become Nina’s arch nemesis, he casts Jackie as Nina’s understudy, which only heightens Nina’s psychosis. We are treated to 30 minutes or so of the manifestation of this psychosis, watching Nina wandering around NYC, seeing herself every where she goes and rebelling violently against her mother. Oh and practicing constantly until either he feet become webbed or she thinks they are.
Night before the performance, I can’t remember what happens but Barbara Hershey after having her hand repeatedly slammed in the door, comes to her senses & decides her daughter’s well-being, (the fact Nina has been cracking up for sometime now) can’t make the premiere & calls her out sick. Of course Nina isn’t having it and goes on to perform. Since no one got this child any psychiatric help, I’m just guessing here, but unlike other ballerina’s who perform though probably just as exhausted, Nina’s paranoia takes over. When she finds out that her understudy was cast as her replacement for the night, she becomes wildly upset & insists she’s perfectly fine and will go on and perform. As she is performing she hallucinates, namely that her understudy is taunting her, and she murders, her hides the body & keeps performing. Supposedly the audience is in the dark about the murder being a hallucination, until her understudy shows up at Nina’s door fine congratulating her on the first half of the show.
“Suddenly” we “realize” the person Nina had shoved a large sliver of glass into wasn’t Jackie but her own body, and Nina is also a freak of medical nature that can go on performing with her insides perforated with glass, showing no blood, even through costume changes. Nina has committed suicide in attempt to be perfect during her performance, but she has also perfected the delayed suicide response, glaring over looked in this movie, as she is able to perform the entire ballet without reveling a drop of blood stain until her final curtain call. The movie uses the cliché literary technique of fading to white to signify death for Nina, after the company realizes she is miraculously covered in blood that could not be seen until her entire performance was ended and she had achieved the life long dream of dancing perfectly!!
I don’t think there is anything wrong with any of these characters a cheeseburger couldn’t have fixed & I desperately want my money back, even though the movie was free. It was billed as horror thriller, nothing was horrifying other than the behavior of the characters toward the young ballerina.
The Help- 1960’s maids of the Jim Crow era are being treated like animals by their employers and have found a variety of coping techniques to deal with the humiliation. Of course one goes off the range and does something to get herself black-balled. A helpful young white woman is trying to convince a magazine to do a story on the treatment of the maids, most that are too afraid to come forward, least they lose their livelihoods.
I have heard second hand how my own grandmother & great grandmother lived thru this time. This movie takes place in either Alabama or Mississippi, they were in Georgia & later in the North, so it was hard to hold my interest but I tried to stick it out. At first only 1 then 2 maids were willing to help this rebellious white woman expose the story. Something happens and all the maids are ready to talk. At this point, I am wondering aren’t their any black educated college students that wanted to tell this story? Is this going to turn into the old magical Negro movie where on the back of black tortured souls, a white person is propelled to freedom, (shawshank), health (Green Mile) or fame off the backs of black misery? Probably, I mean the magical black negro is such a stereotype, no one makes that kind of movie anymore, right? I didn’t risk it, shut it off.
Precious- Heavy-set psychologically tortured girl, with a mother in the same condition is berated and sexually assaulted at home, while being encouraged st school she can overcome her circumstances if she just really tries. At some point a jar of vaseline is prominently featured in a rape scene and I can no longer watch.