For Stinky's annual Blogathon, I give you one of 2010's most stunning, enigmatic, and eye-poppingly exquisite Supporting Actress turns -- one of the top breakout performances of the year provided by...
Mila Kunis plays Lily, the mysterious new girl from San Francisco who transfers to a NYC ballet company just in time for the companies big production of Swan Lake, starring the film's protagonist Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) who's been cast in the dual role of both sides of the Swan Queen in which preparation for her performance has turned into something beyond a mere daunting task; as it is beginning to lead her into a spinning vortex of psychological and emotional doom and dark devastation.
Kunis' Lily enters the film as a seemingly well tuned exterior of grace, beauty, charm, and dedication to her art, to her life, and to the world around her. With her charismatic and easy going disposition she quietly and effectively skirts and glides over her surroundings -- always being active in the moment yet keeping a palpable detachment from those when she needs to be.
We don't know hardly anything about Lily, but her entrancing, mysterious interior converges with Nina's desperate and crumbling exterior, and seeing something different in her, Lily offers a generous and warm helping hand in Nina's time of need. Showing a friendly interest in Nina, Lily assures her fellow dancer that everything will go fine and that her performance will be "amazing", though in Kunis' enigmatic playing things may or may not be as they seem, as each word and glance seems to spin on a sharp edge.
As Nina's self-psychological ware fare continues to rapidly progress, her point of logic and reasoning becomes fuzzy, to say the least, and she begins to become weary of Lily's intentions even when Lily continues to almost sugar-coat their erratic relationship with a genuine camaraderie. Such as when Lily blatantly assumes that Nina is "hot for teacher", then spills to the teacher about her bout of crying to have him ease up on her. It's in these early foundation scenes for the character that Kunis is able to subtly detail and illuminate her characterization of Lily, as opposed to playing the part on a flat, cliched, super bitch note. Whether it be from a glance or a small movement, Kunis ably conveys a certain unforeseen depth below the sweet surface before she peels it all away.
The general concept of the Lily character is that she is almost written and designed as such a mystery woman that there is a hollow emptiness to the role that requires filling from the actress. With Kunis in the role, she's at every moment revealing something new about Lily while restraining just enough so that we want more. Such as when Lily innocently takes Nina out for drinks, but then goes on to reveal a wild, sexually adventurous and unrestrained side of herself ("you just gotta' let him lick your pussy
") that she feels will help Nina loosen up. But is this reality? Is Nina's POV (our POV) playing tricks, or is Kunis' Lily a real world embodiment of both sides of Nina's Swan Queen? So much complexity surrounds both the character and her placement in the film, yet Kunis' portrayal is remarkable for it's simplicity and clarity.
Such complexities arise, when at the club, the relationship between the two women begin to heighten/tighten and Lily gives Nina a little piece of advice in saying (that happens to be becoming her Internet catchphrase): "you really need to relax..
." before offering her a loosener that will help both to enjoy a crazy free-for-all night together. This all of course leads up to the climax (pun intended) of the evening when the two head back to Nina's room and share an intense, passionate, and sexy scene where Lily guides Nina to her sexual awakening
While it may seem that her role is just a plot device or a mere foil to Portman's Nina, that may be so, but Kunis' performance elevates the role and is absolutely essential to the effectiveness of Black Swan
's narrative. In terms of acting choices and characterization, Kunis provides the character dark, textured, and humanized shades of feral, morality, deception and desire -- giving the film it's compass to channel it's themes through. And to her credit she plays Lily in a completely naturalistic and subtle tone that a) remains a refreshing and stark contrast to the mannered, calculated theatrics of Portman, Hershey, and Ryder and b) anchors and grounds a film that would have spun around and collapsed under its own silly, pretentious weight. Also, what's so appealing and engaging about the role and the performance is that both the script and the actress don't confine the character within limited dimensions (like the other actors are), but instead Kunis' Lily might be the single character in the film to have a life outside the often cloying narrative which is just thrilling to witness and comprehend.
It's very subtle and very detailed work that I found to be easily be the best thing about this film (and yes, I did see Natalie Portman in the movie) and it's the kind of true supportive
supporting performance that I just love. I also love that Mila Kunis was able to generate so much buzz and attention when Portman and the film itself seemed to overshadow her early on. But with the Globe and SAG nominations as well as some critics noms and a win, I can safely and happily say that she most likely be included in Oscar's final five Supporting Actress performances of the year. And for those of you questioning both the performance and nominations it is receiving, I offer this analysis as some reason to look back and take a fresh look with new eyes to one of the most astonishing performances of 2010.
Labels: Black Swan, Mila Kunis, Oscar's