Requiem for a Dream (2000) (R)

"Requiem for a Dream" is as fearless, brutal, and merciless as any picture that I've seen. Never once does it let you come up for air as it pounds its way towards the climatic, and visually disturbing final scenes.
Like Danny Boyle's "Trainspotting", this movie centers around characters who are only looking forward to the next score—junkies.
"Requiem for a Dream" comes from acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky, only his second feature film. His previous work was "Pi" which was disturbing on its own level, yet Aronofsky sets a new standard in this movie.
What starts off as slightly innocent, beautiful, and even somewhat comical turns into (to borrow a word from "A Clockwork Orange) a real horrorshow.
Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto) is a drug addict and he gets money for his kicks by repeatedly stealing his mother's television. He'll wheel the set onto the street and sell it for twenty dollars and a few minutes later his mother will follow after him and buy it back...rinse and repeat.
I can't get out of my mind that "Requiem for a Dream" is more like Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" than anything else. Both are exquisitely made, and both are bizarre in their own ways—yet Aronofsky's picture can attribute that to the drugs.
Not many movies have the courage to center around nothing but narcotics, booze, and the like—the aforementioned "Trainspotting" is one and Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic" is another. Make no mistake, however, "Requiem for a Dream" makes both those movies look like Pixar features.
Harry's mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn), is obsessed with a television infomercial about bettering your life. When a phone call tells her that she has been selected to appear on television (which show, we are never told), she morphs into a different person. The focus of her obsession becomes a red dress that she wore to Harry's graduation...she wants to wear it again, but this time when she appears on screen.
Harry and his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans), decide that they want to become drug dealers and they enter into a world, from which there is no return.
Then there's Harry's girlfriend, Marion Silver (the ethereal Jennifer Connelly). Marion is possibly the most addictive of the whole lot of them, which could be for the sake of artistry—she is a fashion designer wannabe with dreams of opening her own shop.
At first, things go well for the bunch...all things considered. Ah, but then, the glorious demise.
Every single one of the characters slides down into madness and addiction—of all different kinds.
The question that became large and looming in my head was: is this film preaching? Certainly, Soderbergh's film was preaching; but I don't think that Aronofsky's movie is. It takes no stand to condemn or bless the actions of the characters...somehow it remains remarkably unbiased. Though the depths that the characters, particularly Marion, are willing to go through just to get high are violently frightening and sexually graphic—this may be the only reason that the film could seem self-righteous.
The film is cyclical in nature, beginning with seasons and ending with seasons. It would imply that the horrors that this twisted family had to endure will end up being forced on another group of unfortunate people.
As the months pass by and the eyes widen, Aronofsky lets loose his demons...I cannot emphasize what an impact this movie had on me.
The acting is all sensational and the movie evokes great performances from all of the supporting cast. Jennifer Connelly is worth mentioning since she is physically the most wounded by the movie. I have always been a fan of Jared Leto and here he impresses again...sad, because he is surrounded by masters of the craft and they all outshine him. Ellen Burstyn got an Oscar nomination for Sara, the mother that turns into an attention crazy and pill popping unstable tour de force.
I have never been a fan of Aronofsky, the closest he ever came to impressing me was with "Black Swan" though I still had my reservations about the film. But here, he is so violent, so disturbing, and so psychedelic that it makes one great movie.
This is the kind of movie that is impossible to recommend, because it does cause some emotional trauma...maybe I'm more sensitive than the rest.
I wasn't sure at the beginning, when Sara starts to hallucinate hamburgers and deep fried food—is this effective?
Matthew Libatique pulls out every trick in the hat for stunning cinematography that is highly drug inspired. It's documentary style in parts with the camera seemingly nailed to the actor's front; and it's jarring in other, vibrating with the frequencies of the actors's voices.
"Requiem for a Dream" is a movie about four poor souls, trapped in a animalistic and tortuous world. Will they get out?
Heartbreaking, evocative, and graphic..."Requiem for a Dream" is the finest of Aronofsky's movies; but one that I will probably never see again.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

1 comment:

  1. That last scene... I can't even describe all the emotion turning inside my body. The music, the perfect collage of spoken lines and video pieces of all of them at the bottom of their pit was done so uncomfortably well. Whatever type of scene that is, that's the best one I've ever scene. At least what I can remember.

    At the very end, it broke my heart how pure Sara's intentions STILL were. She was the character that made really made the film seem unbiased.

    I wish Jared Leto continued acting, but his career with 30 Seconds to Mars is doing fabulously.

    Agreed that I'll never be watching it again.