this ballet flick gets under our skin.

by liza darwin

Even though Black Swan has long been shrouded in mystery, it's not a secret that the film possesses all the key ingredients for an awesome movie: an acclaimed director, award-winning actors, and a creepily intriguing plot. Put all of these components together, and you get an all-encompassing psychological thriller that somehow exceeds any prior expectations.

Natalie Portman stars as the fragile but driven dancer Nina, who's determined to rebel against her naive, passive reputation and score the lead role in Swan Lake. But convincing her elite NYC ballet company (and her stone-cold instructor) that she can play both the virginal White Swan and the evil Black Swan is only the beginning of Nina's problems. Along with outside pressures like her overbearing, aggressive mother and newcomer dancer Lily who threatens her starring role (played by a free-spirited Mila Kunis), some of the biggest obstacles Nina have to deal with come from within.

We don't want to give everything away, but if you've ever doubted Natalie Portman's ability to play dark, here's your proof. Her character Nina is totally stunning, sure, but Portman also manages to show the unfortunate-and not so pretty- consequences that come from major insecurity and scary amounts of pressure. All of this uncomfortable intensity is juxtaposed against the 40+ gorgeous ballet costumes designed by Rodarte's Kate and Laura Mulleavy.

Black Swan has the same trippy elements as director Darren Aronofsky's other psychological flick Requiem for a Dream, but the power struggles at the core of the film allude more to classics tales like Greek tragedies and William Shakespeare. And just like all great stories, Black Swan has the power to leave you exhilarated, a little shaken, and asking yourself "did this really happen?" as soon it's over.