Entries tagged with “Natalie Portman”.

Silliness reigns in David Gordon Green’s foul-mouthed fantasy spoof Your Highness, co-written by and starring Danny McBride, one of the more unique comic personalities working today.  It’s an almost deliberately messy and imperfect movie, but I laughed quite a bit, perhaps because I have a soft spot in my heart for the vintage ’80s fantasies its riffing on.  Read my mild defense of this proudly dumb comedy over at Film Journal.

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.


Black Swan
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Screenplay by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John McLaughlin
Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey

The key to appreciating (if not necessarily enjoying) the unnerving ballet psychodrama Black Swan is coming to terms with the fact that director Darren Aronofsky isn’t making Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake—he’s making Roman Polanski’s Swan Lake.  The influence of the controversial Polish filmmaker’s work looms large over this film, particularly his vintage ’60-era thrillers like Rosemary’s Baby, Knife in the Water and Repulsion.  Indeed, the latter film is the most obvious influence on Black Swan.  Released in 1965, Repulsion (which was Polanski’s first English-language feature) starred Catherine Deneuve as a troubled young woman so frightened of the world in general and men in particular that when her sister leaves her alone in their apartment for a week, her internal demons manifest themselves as terrifying hallucinations that eventually push her over the edge into madness.   Even today, Repulsion remains one of the great “Don’t watch it when you’re home alone” movies, as Polanski turns a nondescript apartment into a cabaret of horrors.