The trailer for Darren Aranofsky’s much-anticipated new film, Black Swan, was released this week. And I’m disappointed. This summer has sucked pretty hard for movies, and I’ve been hoping desperately that the fall was going to bring a sweep of much better films to make up for it. But apart from Never Let Me Go and Harry Potter, Black Swan was the only project on the horizon that looked promising. It looked like a taut psychological thriller with not one, but two female leads.
Aranofsky is the mind behind The Wrestler, The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream. Of those three, I’ve only seen Requiem, and felt like it was one of those movies that …
… you wind up “appreciating” rather than enjoying. Lots of people loved Requiem, but if you haven’t seen it, allow me to sum up the entire film: if you do drugs, your life will turn to shit. There. You’ve seen the movie, minus all of the double-ended dildos and amputations.
But Natalie Portman is wonderful, and I’m interested in seeing what Mila Kunis does with a serious role. The plot, as I’ve gathered from the trailer and random synopses, centers around a ballerina (Natalie Portman) who finally wins a big role in her company after years of being passed over and under-used: she’s going to play the lead in Swan Lake. But Lily, a rival dancer (Mila Kunis) arrives and impresses the director (Vincent Cassel). From there, explains Time Newsfeed‘s Steven James Snyder:
Portman starts to freak, and then turns this anxiety on herself, as her reality begins to skew out of control: Is Lily real, or a figment of her fractured imagination? Near the end of the trailer, there’s a particularly haunting moment when Portman, sporting bloodshot eyes, digs a small black feather out of her back. Was she attacked? Did her mother lash out at her? Has she done this to herself?
I get that a movie about two women fighting for dominance in the cutthroat world of New York ballet is unlikely to bring a male audience in droves. So the advertisers of the film found a way to remedy this. Introduce a little girl-on-girl action in the middle of the climactic debut trailer for the film (which opens December 1st).
I complained all last week that interesting films starring women just don’t seem to get made that often, and that was part of the reason I was excited about Black Swan. Sure, it’s about ballerinas, but these are two very cool, very meaty performances for two young actresses. And yet the marketing department decided to focus on “lipstick lesbian” action (so hot right now) to appeal to a male audience. Weird, since Elizabeth Hasselbeck of the View thinks lesbians are just women who can’t get men.
I get that, in the film itself, this will probably be “metaphorical” sex — does Portman’s character want to “invade” or “sully” or “become” Kunis’s character? Are they really the same person? Etc., etc. Point is, even if Kunis and Portman are the same person, I don’t recall Pitt and Norton making out in Fight Club. Sadly.
The kiss, which is apparently part of a drug-fueled sex scene between the friends/rivals, is unsurprisingly getting a ton of press. The Sun UK said:
And this is the moment that’s bound to drive hordes of men into cinemas when it hits screens – even though, essentially, it’s all about ballerinas.
Mark Lorenz at Manolith added:
Happy birthday. To me. This feels like a gift bestowed from the heavens by someone who knows my taste in films and women. [...] I don’t really know what other selling points you need besides angry lesbian ballerina sex. If you put that label on any sort of product that didn’t merit it – I’m buying what you’re selling. Even if it’s a skullcap, or something. Just watch the trailer.
And just typing “The Black Swan” into Google News yields the following headlines:
Am I surprised? Not really. But I am disappointed. Can we have one solid female-led film that doesn’t submit itself to the male gaze? Please? Or, failing that, more guy-on-guy?
What do you think? Are you looking forward to Black Swan? Are you surprised or frustrated with the marketing’s capitalization on the girl-on-girl kiss, or the internet’s response to it?