Sunday, January 09, 2011

Supporting Actress 2010: Mila Kunis in Black Swan.


This be my entry for Stinky Lulu's Class of 2010 Supporting Actress blogathon. Get over there for more Supporting Actress Greatness!

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Now, I'mma let you in on a little secret. When I was writing my entry for Supporting Actress, Class of 2008, my brain was telling me to pick Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but my heart was urging me to pick Mila Kunis for Forgetting Sarah Marshall. In the end, I went with my head, though several days later I gave Forgetting Sarah Marshall a re-watch, and I knew that I should have gone with my heart's pick. To semi-atone for my movie-related mistake, I compiled my list of all-round favourite performances from that year, and bunged Miss Kunis at a high position in the list. But I didn't lose too much sleep over the matter, because I knew that, such was her talent and loveliness, that Mila Kunis was sure to come back in future years with a performance of equal, if not higher, calibre. And right I was, because in 2010, she stepped out and turned heads in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. And boy, what a performance.

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In Black Swan, Natalie Portman's character, Nina Sayers, is an extremely devoted and hardworking ballet student. The director at the ballet school, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel, never swarmier), wants to put on a production of the famous Black Swan ballet, and for the lead, instead of picking the experienced Beth (Winona Ryder), he decides he wants fresh blood for the role. There is nothing Nina wants more than this lead. And she would be fuilly deserving of it, if it were not for one thing: to depict the swan in Swan Lake, the actress must be able to depict both sides of the swan, the innocent, "white" swan, as well as be able to dance the part of its evil twin, the black swan. Anyone with eyes can see that Nina is perfect for the part of the white swan, but she is too vulnerable, innocent, and takes herself far too seriously to be the black swan. Looking for inspiration in how to "let herself go", Leroy points Nina in the direction of Lily, a recent addition to the ballet troupe. She is not as gifted technically as Nina, nor does she try half as hard, but she has a kind of devil-may-care swagger (if swagger were to translate onto the dance floor) that Nina herself lacks. Soon, Nina forges a kind of twisted "keep your friends close and your enemies even closer" friendship with Lily that helps her embody her character more, whilst simultaneously contributing to her downfall.

Before having seen the film and just checked out the trailer, I guessed that with the Yin/Yan-ing of Portman as the White Swan and Kunis as the Black one, we, the audience, were supposed to feel an aversion to the character of Lily. Quite the opposite. Instead, we, like Lily, are drawn into this free spirit, wanting to know more about her, whilst not letting on that we're curious. The curious casting of Portman and Kunis, who don't look dissimilar, really brings out the difference in their two personalities; Nina, the obsessive-compulsive who is obsessed with "perfection", and Lily, who is more than happy to live her life and go where the wind blows. Furthermore, what I thought was extremely clever about Kunis' portrayal of Lily is that she presents her character as appearing friendly, a bit morally and sexually loose, but harmless with it, yet Nina feels completely and utterly threatened by her. Whether this discomfort towards Lily is justified, or a product of Nina's detereorating mental condition, well, that forms much of the basis of the film.

The other thing I thought was terrific about Mila's performance is that she is the perfect foil for Natalie Portman. Although the two may look alike, that is where the similarities end. Portman's Nina is practically still a kind insofar as she's very much a mummy's girl, and her pink bedroom is decorated with stuffed animals. Everything must be neat and in its place and in order; she eats half a grapefruit and a tiny egg for breakfast, ties her hair in an impossibly neat bun, and executes all her dance moves with precision. Lily, on the other hand, doesn't dance badly, but it's definitely more of a "flap her arms about" thing rather than the intense study that Nina regards it with. Part of the intensity of Natalie Portman's performance is how starkly it concentrates with Mila Kunis' casualness. The "hot badass" role could so easily escalate into caricature, but thanks to some astute writing and subtle line-delivery (check Mrs. Family Guy out when says "What, did you have some kind of lezzy wet dream about me!?"), Nina is every bit a real person as the director would like.

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Then there's the sex scene. Without giving away too much about the film, I'll simply say "not all is at it seems". But the dedication from both actresses to that scene was terrific, I thought. Their love-making felt authentic, heated, and such was the urgency of the scene that you almost wanted Kunis to go down on Portman as much as their characters did. Haha.

Thus, Mila Kunis in Black Swan is my pick for Supporting Actress Class of 2010. A performance that is by turns sexy, funny, dark and enthralling throughout. I could not take my eyes off her. Get it, Mila.

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24 comments:

Candice Frederick said...

hmmmm i liked your tribute here. but i just can't jump on the kunis bandwagon...yet

reesefilmreview said...

It's so bizarre.. I thought there were more Kunis haters than supporters, which is why I wrote about her for the blogathon. I'm pleasantly happy with all the write-ups dedicated to her, though. She was incredible.

Besty said...

Remember that barmaid in Witney who we both thought looked exactly like Mila?

Emma said...

omg I'm lol'ing!!! Yeah, we both tried to chat her up. Hahahaha. lol'ing.

Besty said...

Best thing about Witney if you ask me.

Emma said...

Mmmm-hmmm. Most enthralling holiday location, it most certainly was not!! And who picked it? ;)

btw I have Mila Kunis in my Supporting Actress Line-up of 2010 twice, for BS and Date Night. lawlz.

Besty said...

That's got to be a joke.

Emma said...

Nah mate!! My supporting actress line-up:

Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Geraldine James, Made in Dagenham
Michelle Williams, Shutter Island
Mila Kunis, Date Night
Eva Mendes, The Other Guys

Besty said...

I'm never reading this "film blog" ever again.

Emma said...

Get you!! Don't worry, I just finished watching Conviction and Juliette Lewis is definitely getting on, she was amaze!

Besty said...

So that gets rid of Mendes- good. (Tho I love her in Bad Lieutenant).

But Kunis shouldn't be on there for either performance! Like with her average performance in FSM, you've just got her on because you think she's pretty. Winona Ryder was much better in Black Swan.

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