Directed by Darren Aronofsky, written by  Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz, starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, and Barbara Hershey

By the accolades and pending awards (Breaking news: Natalie Portman won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama for her role as prima ballerina in this film), I might be the only person who thinks Darren Aronofsky’s (“The Wrestler”) “Black Swan” is way, way over the top with some scenes played like the cheesiest melodrama.  A reviewer from The New Yorker wrote that "Black Swan" is the funniest film he’s seen in ages, with bad dialogue which caused him to laugh out loud at one line in a scene not shot for comedy, so I'm not in bad company.  (Rotten Tomatoes critics rate that 88% of viewers liked it.)  
Though beautiful, “Black Swan”, set in New York City, is a cliché ridden oeuvre with no surprises.  Messed up, alcoholic Beth (an unrecognizable - - because of makeup and hair - - Winona Ryder), had been Ballet Master Thomas Leroy’s prima ballerina.  Leroy is played by French noir star, Vincent Cassel.*  Leroy has just booted Beth from her tour de force role of the Swan in “Swan Lake,” and replaced her with Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) so we know she’ll suffer a tragedy and are not disappointed.  Aronofsky shows Nina as tightly wound as the bun on the back of her head, which we see, along with her rigid, skeletal shoulders, in shot after shot as the camera follows her, ad nauseam, as she traipses down endless corridors to her dressing room, studio, or theatre.
Portman and a much worked-on Barbara Hershey, Nina’s hellish mother, Erica, play their characters to an extreme breaking point in every scene, leaving them no place to go but down, down, down.  Erica babies Nina as evidenced by a bedroom decorated with sickly-sweet pinkie-rosy colors and dozens of plush toys and lacy pillows.  Erica even switches on Nina’s Swan Lake music box and caresses her to sleep.  Nina calls her “Mommy” with a voice edged in tears and desperation, even when giving her good news.  We learn that Erica had quit her career so her daughter could have one.  Near the end, when she reminds Nina of her sacrifice, Nina shoots back - - her only sign of inner strength: “What career?”  The most relaxed but focused characters are Cassel’s Leroy, Nina’s rival, Lily (an excellent, confidant, sloe-eyed Mila Kunis), and Nina’s Swan partner, David ( Benjamin Millepied - - what better name for a choreographer/dancer; he, is Portman’s fiance and father of their unborn child.)
Audience expectations are telegraphed and met:  Thomas’s seduction play to arouse Nina’s libido so she can access her evil side for the Black Swan; Beth’s accusations and alcoholic melt-down at the party announcing Nina’s role;  Beth’s accusations that Nina is sleeping with Leroy, which Nina denies.  In one scene, Beth tells Nina that Leroy will soon be calling her “Little Princess” as he did her at one time, then Nina will know it’s over.  Oh, and let us not forget that, of course, the night before the performance, Lily convinces Nina to party with her, ingest unknown substances, drink, and make out with loser strangers they pick up in a club, causing Nina to be late for the opening, and, when she arrives, with whom has Leroy replaced her?   
The film’s pluses are its gorgeous cinematography (Matthew Libatique); the music - - original score, Clint Mansell and, of course, Tchaikovsky; costumes (Amy Westcott); sets, black, white and red coloration, and lighting; the corps de ballet practice and rehearsal scenes in the studio and on stage, the pas de deux with Nina and David; and Sergio, the Black Prince (Sergio Torrado), and the bits of Leroy’s newly envisioned, ultra dramatic “Swan Lake.”  Still, were I an aspiring prima ballerina, “Black Swan” would not be the film to see for inspiration, nor would “The Red Shoes,” for that matter.  Yet, we know that the intense pressure Nina suffers stems from her overbearing, obsessive mother, driving her to psychosis.  Nina imagines wrongs and slights wreaked on her by the girls in the company.  Soon these imaginings become bizarre hallucinations of a lesbian sex sleepover with Lily, and evil, gory, surreal images as when she visits Beth in the hospital and “sees” her wounds as bloody, badly stitched gashes, and the tortuous metal brace on her leg (as one reviewer noted: - -“That would make David Cronenberg proud.”  Also, she sees zombie-like figures looming in darkened corridors, and grotesque, bloody changes to her own body.  Nina drives herself to such madness that she believes she has killed someone.  Her hallucinations; witnessing the fate of Beth; her relationship with Leroy, her mother, and Lily, can lead only to one end.  And she takes it. 
*Vincent Cassel was last seen in the two French films: “Mesrine: Public Enemy No. One” and “Mesrine: Killer Instinct,” based on the true story of an assassin, the most dangerous man in France.