This year, I have chosen Mila Kunis as Lily/The Black Swan in Black Swan as my Supporting Actress of 2010. Before reading any further into this post I have to warn you that their will be spoilers here, and so if you have not seen the film, I HIGHLY recommend you go out and watch it immediately/you stop reading this post until you do.
I have to admit, I have been taken with Kunis for quite some time, and so when I first heard that she was teaming with Darren Aronofsky, you could say I was a little bit ecstatic. I've always thought Kunis had a lot of charisma, likability and charm, so I was happy to see that Aronofsky had used all of her natural abilities to their fullest extent.
What I liked most about this performance was the way that Kunis chose to express the character's physicality. A simple smile or flicker of her eyes (and what eyes they are!) are evocative enough to represent Lily's sexuality and dark side. Lily's movements and her expressions all call forth a seductive darkness that plays in direct contrast to Natalie Portman's Nina/The White Swan. It was vital to the story that the character Lily is sensual enough to rival Nina's purity and draw her into trying to express that sensuality herself in her dancing. I would argue that Kunis leaves more of an impression with her body language than Portman does. In a few scenes we can already tell what the character of Lily is like though her general demeanor around the company and especially through her dancing (which I think would have come across even without Vincent Cassel's voice telling us so).
Lily is a free spirit, willing to do what she wants and say what she feels, I mean she goes out to a restaurant and orders a cheeseburger! In the world of ballet where the upkeep of bodies is so important what kind of ballerina would do that? Lily of course. Kunis makes these kinds of choices believable which is why we are so drawn to the character, and why Nina is so bewitched yet jealous of her. She somehow possesses the freedom to make her own choices and essentially live her own life outside of the ballet company, and that is all due to the fact that Kunis has created a character layered with so many interesting subtleties that it is easy to imagine a whole world outside of the film in which Lily is living her own life. Just watch the scene at the restaurant, where Kunis goes everywhere from concerned to devilish in mere moments. I must say all of that work is pretty impressive given the fact that the film is really the Natalie Portman show.
It would have been easy to make this character a one-note cliché, but to Kunis' credit, she ground Lily in reality. Much like her dancing in the film, Kunis brings a fresh sense of naturalism to the role, making it look effortless and thus making her fascinating to watch in contrast to Portman. Another thing that I loved about Kunis was the real levity she brought to the work that she did in the film. She delivers all of the films best and most memorable lines does with such wit and good humour ("Was I good?"). It offers a nice counterpoint to all of the film's difficult and heavy scenes, which I think is essential.
Kunis understands that Lily is the catalyst for Nina's ultimate transformation, and she plays her so well that when Nina delivers her performance the audience can clearly see that Lily has left her mark on Nina as well as ourselves. I think that is what the job called for, and Kunis has clearly delivered on all fronts. The is why she is my choice for the best Supporting Actress of 2010, and my entry into StinkyLulu's 2010 blog-a-thon.
[This post is part of the Supporting Actress Class of 2010 blog-a-thon happening over at StinkyLulu. You should head on over there if you haven't already and check out more of the entries from all the other bloggers.]