What did I just watch?
No. Seriously. What did I just watch?
Darren Aronofsky warned us all – apparently, it took him nearly 10 years to finalize his vision of Black Swan on-screen. It took 20 years to bring Noah to theatres. This movie, however, took FIVE DAYS. Aronofsky said that the movie just came pouring out of him as soon as he began to type which is an insane notion to think that a 2+ hour movie with a plot so insane and layered only took five freakin’ days to come to fruition.
The plot? Oh boy. Well, a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) and her husband (Javier Bardem) live in a quiet home that has been rebuilt and painted by Lawrence after it was burned down and her husband lost everything near and dear to him. When a strange man (Ed Harris) and his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrive to the house, everything begins to unravel though as suddenly more people enter their home and as a viewer, you’re never really sure just what in the hell is happening in this… amazing film.
This is going to be the toughest review I’ve ever had to write. How do I even explain this movie? This is not a straight-forward film at all. In fact, if you don’t have a love for anything that’s more than a ‘Point A to Point B’ style of plot, I would advise you to stay far, far away from this movie. Aronofsky has created a dream-like world of visual symbolism that I have never seen from him before at this level. Whereas previous works like Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan could be referred to as using some strange filming techniques, nothing compares to the stylistic storytelling of this insane cinematic achievement. Every shot in this film feels carefully planned to a tee.
Jennifer Lawrence needs to be commended for all she had to go through for this film. She is thrown around, screams herself hoarse, cries puddles of tears and is on an emotional roller coaster for essentially the entire movie. She remains radiant throughout and a real trooper so kudos must be given to her first and foremost. Javier Bardem is an excellent actor and here he takes on one of his more interesting parts. Ever since No Country for Old Men, I knew that Bardem was a performer to watch for and he continues to prove that with his interesting role selection. Ed Harris is a very uniquely talented performer in that he can be charming at the same time as menacing and give off a sense of uneasiness to the audience. Here he pulls it off once again. Michelle Pfeiffer is also very much on her A game as the conniving wife. She plays a role that makes it easy to despise her; every scene in which she talks down to Lawrence is utterly vile. You can see the venom almost dripping from her mouth.
The film has some magnificent special effects. Without ruining anything specific, the film really starts to ramp up in intensity the longer it progresses and that usually calls for some impressive visuals and timing. There is one sequence in particular that is late in the film that kept going for so long and getting more and more insane that I was surprised it didn’t just burn the damn reel (and yes, I know it’s all digital now). Aside from the visual effects, the film also possessed some of the best sound design I’ve ever heard in a film. Every floor creak, every pounding step, heartbeats, screams, smashing, crashing, banging… it’s all placed in the film at the most opportune times to create optimal impact.
I am still blown away that this film was released by Paramount Pictures let alone any major studio. Not since the days of Kubrick have we ever seen a film this audacious, original and quite frankly – beautiful at the behest of a Hollywood production company. It’s a movie that a lot of people are going to hate, a lot of people are going to love and everyone is going to talk about. It will disturb you, terrify you, move you and definitely make you think.
Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)
* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)