It's definitely rated R for a reason. Several, actually.
If you're familiar with 'Swan Lake' or 'The Swan Princess' (at least up until the very end of the movie), you'll be quite familiar with the general story. If you're not familiar with either the ballet or the cartoon movie, don't worry, you'll be caught up soon enough. What's nice is that they (the directors) don't target the ballet-going audience, but anyone interested in a creepy, psychological movie about dancing.
I thought it was really clever that they basically told the story twice. The catch is, it's told in two different ways, which I thought was totally cool!
I ended up watching this movie three times in one weekend. It's not a light movie, so I went back to catch anything I missed before.
There's a decent amount of gore in the movie. I don't mean "rip your guts out, shoot-'em-up" movie, but enough to make you squirm in your seat. It was quite effective.
The casting of this movie was amazing. While I was only familiar with Natalie Portman, I thought that the cast had chemistry, no matter how big or small of a part any given actor/dancer had. Dance companies need to have chemistry (I'm not in a dance company and I've never danced except at school dances, but chemistry seems to be important) in order to make the story they're performing believable. To be able to do this under the pretense of a movie seems to be quite impressive. Sure, these people can act, but can they dance? Or vice versa.
The sets were beautiful too! Mostly the stage sets, but the apartment where Nina lived was beautiful too.
Actually, now that I mention her mother, I realize that that was my next topic. Nina's mother is a scary, scary lady. I don't understand why Nina is in her twenties (at the very least) and still living with her mother who treats her like a child, cooking for her, waking her up in the morning, sometimes undressing her. They have an interesting relationship. And it only became more interesting as the movie wore on. It kind of weirded me out...
What was also really interesting was figuring out what parts of the movie were "actually happening" and which weren't. Did Nina really go out and do drugs? Did she really have sex three times in one night or just two (Note: this particular part largely contributes to the rated R rating. If you're sensitive to sexual themes, this is probably not the movie for you)? Did something happen at all? What happened in the dressing room at the end (I know what happened, but how did it happen to her?)? What about Beth?
This was an excellent movie that will make you cringe and swoon. It's completely worth rewatching.
Thanks for reading!