Requiem for a Dream

Love lost. Marion and Harry (Connelly and Leto) share a happy moment before things start going horribly wrong...
dir Darren Aronofsky scr Darren Aronofsky, Hubert Selby Jr
with Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, Christopher McDonald, Keith David, Dylan Baker, Louise Lasser, Mark Margolis, Sean Gullette, Bill Buell, Ben Shenkman
Artisan 00/US 4 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
With his micro-budget debut Pi, Aronofsky established himself as a film artist to watch, but it didn't prepare us for Requiem for a Dream, an audacious tale of addiction and self-destruction that starts as a quiet examination of normal life and then builds to a crescendo of unspeakable horror. It's a remarkable film in every way, worthy of any kudo heaped upon it. And yet it's very, very, very hard to watch.

Sara Goldfarb (Burstyn) is a lonely widow in Brooklyn obsessed by the television, specifically the grandstanding self-help antics of Tabby Tibbons (McDonald). When she wins the chance to be a TV contestant herself, she finds a reason to live: Lose weight so she can wear her favourite red dress on air. This quest distracts her from worrying about her son Harry (Leto), who only ever appears when he needs money. She doesn't know that Harry and his best friend Tyrone (Wayans) are small-time drug dealers with dreams of their own. Harry wants to help his girlfriend (Connelly) open her own fashion design shop; Ty wants to find the love and security he left behind at home.

After setting the stage beautifully with a careful examination of these four characters, Aronofsky starts to layer on the addictions in all their glory--exultant rise and ghastly fall. The camera work and visual design are striking, using colour, trickery and astonishing editing to bring us into the lives of these four people who, in the end, must travel their chosen road alone. And the actors keep it from being just an exercise in style over substance. Burstyn gives a dazzling performance as the diet-pill addict clinging to any reason to get up in the morning, to smile, to feel good about herself ... no matter what it takes out of her. And Leto, Wayans and Connelly bring a gruelling authenticity to their roles as well. As a result the film stays grounded in reality as it accelerates far beyond what you think these characters can bear. Then their lives get even worse--so horrific (too much so?) that you want to turn from the screen and hide. But you can't look away. By this point, you're hooked too.

[18--very strong themes and situations, language, violence, drugs] 17.Oct.00
US release 27.Oct.00; UK release 19.Jan.01

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"Hard hitting, disturbing drama that examines the effects and consequences of habitual and excessive drug taking. Burstyn, who is incredibly believable, is a widow living on her own who starts taking pills to help her to lose weight - believing she is going to appear on a TV quiz show. Her son (Leto), whom she rarely sees, and his girlfriend (Connelly) become addicted to hard illegal drugs. This graphically explores the physical and mental - not to mention moral - deterioration (that can often go hand in hand when individuals habitually over abuse hard drugs) in each case. It gradually develops into a nightmare, but it is a compelling nightmare. Not for the squeamish." --Jeff Greenhalgh, net 22.Nov.01
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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall