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Nina is a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her obsessive former ballerina mother Erica who exerts a suffocating control over her. When artistic director Thomas Leroy decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily, who impresses Leroy as well. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side - a recklessness that threatens to destroy her.
Wonderful performances and assured and audacious direction make for one of the best films of the year. Aronofsky is never afraid to take risks with the story and his unflinching direction turns out to be one of the film's greatest assets.
For all his command of adrenalized, propulsive narrative and his dazzling technical facility, Aronofsky's study in female hysteria ultimately favors frenzy over compassion or insight-and remains strictly skin-deep.
Portman hasn't been this good since her early performances in The Professional and Heat, and is deservedly attracting intense Oscar buzz. Kunis brings to Lily a savvy sexiness, and Cassel is entertainingly smarmy.