No Strings Attached

Directed by Ivan Reitman
Written by Elizabeth Meriwether
Starring Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Greta Gerwig, Kevin Kline

The Other Woman
Written and Directed by Don Roos
Starring Natalie Portman, Scott Cohen, Charlie Tahan, Lisa Kudrow

Now that Black Swan has become her highest-grossing non-Star Wars film to date and appears poised to win her a Best Actress trophy on Oscar night, it seems the right time to ask: Who the heck is Natalie Portman, anyway?  It’s certainly hard to think of another prominent young actress out there right now with a less defined screen persona.  On the one hand, she doesn’t possess the natural charisma of a movie star like Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon or even Anne Hathaway.  At the same time, she doesn’t vanish into her roles in the way the best character actresses do—think Tilda Swinton, Carey Mulligan or Portman’s fellow Oscar nominee, Michelle Williams.  Whenever she’s onscreen (including in Black Swan), you’re always aware that you’re watching someone named Natalie Portman playing a character, but neither that character, nor Portman herself, completely registers as a believable presence.