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Natalie Portman’s Black Swan Oscar buzz

Natalie Portman’s performance in the psychological thriller Black Swan took the Venice Film Festival by storm. Portman plays prima ballerina Nina, whose ambition and insecurities plunge her into a gritty nightmare in a film that’s being touted as both Oscar-worthy and so bad it’s good.

Natalie Portman at the Black Swan Venice premiere

For better or worse, Natalie Portman has long been saddled with the rep of a good girl — or good queen, in the case of Star Wars. She tried to shake that up in 2006 with her fantastically raunchy gangsta rap video on Saturday Night Live.

Now, word is her new movie Black Swan will finally do the trick.

Buzz from yesterday’s first screening at the Venice Film Festival is that Portman proves she can chuck virtue to the wind and go completely nuts on the big screen.

“A wicked, sexy and ultimately devastating study of a young dancer’s all-consuming ambition, Black Swan serves as a fascinating complement to Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, trading the grungy world of a broken-down fighter for the more upscale but no less brutal sphere of professional ballet,” wrote Variety‘s Peter Debruge. “Centerstage stands Natalie Portman, whose courageous turn lays bare the myriad insecurities dedicated performers face when testing their limits, revealing shades of the actress never before seen on film.”

While some are talking Oscar, however, others see it more as a wild, trashy ride than high art.

“It is an instant guilty pleasure, a gorgeously shot, visually complex film whose badness is what’s so good about it,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter‘s Kirk Honeycutt. “You might howl at the sheer audacity of mixing mental illness with the body-fatiguing, mind-numbing rigors of ballet, but its lurid imagery and a hellcat competition between two rival dancers is pretty irresistible.”

Though Honeycutt contends the film is only terribly good, he had raves for the stars.

“You sense [Portman] has bravely ventured out of her comfort zone to play a character slowly losing sight of herself. It’s a bravura performance,” he continued. “Kunis makes a perfect alternate to Portman, equally as lithe and dark but a smirk of self-assurance in place of Portman’s wide-eyed fearfulness.”

The SwanThe Black Swan low-down

The story of Black Swan actually mirrors Portman’s move to embrace the dark side, but Nina’s story doesn’t turn out quite as glowingly.

With new competition in the form of ballerina Lilly (Mila Kunis) and pressure from her former ballerina mom (Barbara Hershey), Nina fights to win the lead in the ballet Swan Lake.

The young ballerina has the White Swan’s innocence down. It’s the sensual side of the Dark Swan she must prove she can handle. Her adventure into the dark side lands her in some scary places, not to mention in a much touted sex scene with onscreen rival Mila Kunis.

Black Swan also stars Winona Ryder and is due to hit theaters in a limited release December 1.

In the meantime, SheKnows got a hold of this scary preview clip to whet your appetite and share a glimpse of what everyone’s talking about.

The Black Swan trailer

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