What starts as a case of always the bridesmaid, never the bride, changes when Natalie Portman's veteran ballerina 'Nina Sayers' is granted the opportunity of a lifetime to dance the Swan Queen part in Swan Lake.
An uptight, perfectionist, the ballet director knows that she can perform the White Swan part with ease, but wonders if she has the edge, passion and darkness to play the alter-ego role of the Black Swan.
Darren Aronofsky's movie is essentially an exploration of her darker side, as the stereotypical ballet dancer's inhibitions are slowly unleashed, in a tale of sexual awakening, self-harm and haunting paranoia.
Black Swan is unsettling and edgy, made even more so by the use of lots of 'shaky cam' in the movie, plus lots of graphic imagery.
It's not particularly one of those films you say you 'enjoy' as it's quite uncomfortable to watch, but it is a cinematic masterpiece with a superb performance by Natalie Portman. Surely the actress has trained to be a ballerina before, as she so embodies the role it's unbelievable, or more accurately totally believable.
In a year of mediocre films, I honestly believe this is an oscar worthy performance for the young starlet. She's come a long way from Star Wars.
There's also an impressive supporting cast, from the wonderfully mischievous Mila Kunis' 'Lily' who you don't know is friend or foe, is she really trying to undermine Nina or is it all in her mind, to the lecherous ballet director played by Vincent Cassel and a surprisingly understated cameo performance by Winona Ryder, as a washed up ballerina who has passed her prime.
Watching the film sometimes you don't know what's reality or fantasy. At one stage I wondered if I'd just stumbled into a ballet documentary, until Nina and Lily's night out, especially the nightclub dance scene which is wonderfully choreographed and great visual relief from the bleakness of the start of the movie.
At times it's hard to know what the film is. Is it a drama, a horror, a thriller, fantasy? It really is intriguing and unsettling for the whole movie, you never really know where the journey is going to take you, which for this cinema goer was really refreshing.
The final act of the movie totally makes the whole thing make sense and for me it was like a light bulb had gone off over my head.
Black Swan is so powerful, so unique and so engaging it totally deserves four **** stars, my only hesitation at giving the full five stars was the uncomfortable feeling I had the entire length of the movie.
Darren Aronofsky has signed on to direct Wolverine's next outing, so I can only imagine how fantastic that will be.
Next up at the cinema for me is The King's Speech, which is getting great oscar buzz for Colin Firth, so it looks like the studios may have saved their best movies for the end of the year...
P.S. Be sure to check out Natalie Portman's ballet outfit from Black Swan on display.