For each of the three movies, give an account that answers these questions:
- What is at stake?
- Who is the central character? Why? Describe this character's personal journey.
- How is the character transformed?
- What good reason does the character have not to act?
Black Swan is the story of a ballerina, Nina, whose entire life revolves around being a successful dancer (something her controlling mother never managed to achieve), and cinching the lead part in the Black Swan production. Her entire being is at stake as she auditions for the role, and despite winning the part, her place in the ballet company becomes threatened by an up-and-coming dance competitor.
Nina’s journey is portrayed in this story from a hard-working, well-practiced ballerina who wants nothing but the role of Black Swan, greatly admiring the ballerina currently playing the role. The story takes us through her challenges and triumphs as she learns to get in touch with both sides of the character she hopes to play in the production—the pure, innocent white swan, and the more challenging exploration of the edgy, seductive and evil black swan. Only by demonstrating her ability to play both sides of the character can she prove that she’s up for the job of the lead role.
In crossing the line from pure white to dark black, Nina transforms from an innocent ballerina who plays by the rules to one that begins to lose control and will do anything to stay in the game. The tradeoffs required in order to play the role result in her losing her mind. Despite recognizing that her reality had become warped, that the sacrifices she was making, that the risks she was taking went too far, and that this wasn’t what she had expected the ride to result in, Nina continues in her pursuit of ballet perfection, making the ultimate sacrifice for her profession.
Charlie just wants to fit in and belong. A fifteen year old whose best friend recently committed suicide and who is battling his own mental demons, Charlie struggles with starting high school as an introvert where he learns more about himself, his past, and his family than he bargained for. Charlie blossoms as he falls in love (at a distance) for the first time with Sam, and learns the difficulties of
Charlie comes of age in this story as he faces various facets of life that are adult in nature and lack the innocence of childhood. He comes to terms with the reality of his situation, and his past and comes out the other end stronger and clearer about the fact that he was not to blame for his aunt’s death. What started out as an innocent, timid, introverted teenage boy evolved into an open-minded, caring and tolerant young adult.
It would be easier to hide in the shadows, to go unnoticed, to be a wallflower, because then he wouldn’t have to face the horror and betrayal of his aunt’s abuse. But in order to grow into the young man who fell in love with Sam, and who wants to enjoy life to its fullest, he has to face his past, work through it, and grow into the man he wants to be.
This story is one of dedication and persistence. Chris Gardner, the main character, gives up almost his entire life (his wife, his life-savings, his home, and his pride) when his original sales plan doesn’t pan out. In a last ditch effort to provide for his young son, he sets ego aside and takes on a 6 month unpaid internship with a broker company in an effort to get ahead in life and provide for his family.
The path is a rocky one with challenges of all sorts as the father and son duo live on the streets of San Francisco shifting from homeless shelter to shelter between intern shifts and ongoing attempts to continue selling the bone density scanners that Gardner invested his savings into. The character juggles his roles as provider, intern, father, and salesman in an effort to get through the six month internship with the hopes of landing the one broker position being offered within the pool of about twenty other candidates. The pressure to keep all the balls in the air is immense, but when he’s offered the job because of being such a great intern, the rewards are so much sweeter. This was a journey in personal strength, determination and a desire to be better.
Perhaps it would’ve been easier for Gardner to take the low road by setting his own bar lower, taking a blue-collar job making minimum wage and just scraping through life day by day. Instead he could’ve relied on welfare, given up trying to teach his son to work hard and just accepted the cards dealt to him. But he didn’t. He wanted more than that, and in the end, he showed his son, and those around him that life is whatever you make it, no matter what that hand looks like.