On Black Swan and Country Strong

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 11 2011 12:47 PM

On Black Swan and Country Strong





I've already gotten in enough trouble on internal Slate emails today, so I want to make sure you all have been amply warned. Turn back now.





Yesterday, on Vulture, Willa Paskin revealed the surprising twist at the end of Country Strong , a film whose opening I, like much of America, skipped this weekend:

At the end of  Country Strong , Gwyneth Paltrow's character, country-music legend Kelly Canter, dies. Yup. Dies. That's pretty country weak, no? (Heeeeey! Rimshot!) Having been pulled out of rehab early to do a three-show comeback tour, Kelly bumbles the first concert and fails to show up for the second. At the third in Dallas (where she once performed so trashed, she fell and miscarried while onstage), she finally gets her shit together and puts on a great show,which includes this performance and the scene where she tells Leighton Meester'scharacter, " That's how it's done ." Then she goes to her dressing room and intentionally overdoses on prescription medication.

This made me (and some Vulture readers) wonder: Doesn't that mean Country Strong ends in more or less the same way as Black Swan ?

I suppose it's somewhat ambiguous whether Nina actually intends to kill herself at the end of Black Swan though the satisfied look on her face leads me to believe that, even if she didn't, she was definitely pleased with the outcome. *

I'm tempted to spin out some feminist rage about how upsetting it is to see two films in which women are portrayed as too fragile to handle the pressures of fame, or life, or sex, or something. But the linking of artistic natures and mental instability is such a hoary cliché, it may not
warrant that kind of reading. For any readers who've seen both movies what do you think? Are the two endings parallel?

Update, Jan. 11, 2011: In this post, I'd shared my original understanding of Black Swan 's ending: That someone (presumably Nina) put a shard of glass on the mattress she falls on at the end of the ballet, and that's what kills her. However, reader Jenn Brasler and my colleagues have convinced me that Nina actually stabs herself during the imagined dressing room fight with Lily. Okay, I'll admit, that makes more sense thematically. But I still don't see how she's supposed to dance that last part of the ballet with a big piece of glass in her stomach.

Photo by Niko Tavernise.  ©  Fox Searchlight Pictures.  




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