Saturday, June 23, 2012

#677. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Directed By: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly

Tag line: "From the director of Pi"

Trivia: Director Darren Aronofsky asked Jared Leto and Marlon Wayans to avoid sex and sugar for a period of 30 days in order to better understand an overwhelming craving

Requiem for a Dream is an exposé, detailing, in often shocking fashion, the tragic consequences of drug addiction. With such a bleak subject matter, you might assume Requiem for a Dream is an uncomfortable film to sit through. 

Well, you'd be correct; this movie is devastating. 

But as difficult as it is to watch, I couldn't recommend it more. Aside from its frank portrayal of addicts, Requiem for a Dream boasts an incredible style, which director Darren Aronofsky injects into each and every scene.

Sarah Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) is a middle-aged widow living in Brooklyn, New York. Her only child Harry (Jared Leto) has just stolen her television, which he sells to buy drugs for himself and his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). Harry’s girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) has dreams of becoming a fashion designer, yet is held back time and again by her crippling addiction to cocaine. 

One day, Sarah receives a phone call inviting her to be a contestant on her favorite TV game show. Her elation quickly turns to sadness, however, when she realizes her favorite red dress - the only dress she would even consider wearing for her TV debut - no longer fits her. So, Sarah pays a visit to a doctor who writes her a prescription for diet pills (aka amphetamines), no questions asked. Before long, Sarah has dropped a staggering 25 pounds, but the pills are affecting more than her waistline.

Requiem for a Dream is clever in its depiction of drug use, exposing us to every ‘high’ by way of stylishly constructed montages that feature quickly edited shots, detailing both the process of taking drugs as well as the effects they have on the user. Thanks to Aronofsky's ingenious approach, we experience what the characters are experiencing, essentially ‘getting high’ right along with them. Each time Sarah pops another diet pill, the action speeds to a near frantic pace. Then, as the pills wear off, things slow to a crawl.

Perhaps the most engaging aspect of Requiem for a Dream, however, is the way it got me thinking about its four main protagonists, and the very nature of their addictions. I believe Sarah Goldfarb best sums up the mindset of these characters when she explains to Harry (who himself is addicted to heroin) why she is taking the pills. For Sarah, the promise of being on television has given her a reason to live, and she tells Harry, point blank, that “it makes tomorrow all right”. 

Though poignant, this statement is also quite chilling. Yes, narcotics may make tomorrow seem "all right", as Sarah says, but what about the other tomorrows that will follow? What will it take to make them OK? Most addicts don't think that far into the future. Their philosophy is “feel good now”. 

But there will be a next day. There's always a next day. What then?

Requiem for a Dream shows us many of these "next days", and it is not a pretty sight!


Anonymous said...

I’ve seen this flick about 4 times now, and it still gets in my head. There’s just something so powerful and thrilling about this movie that makes you want to agree with everything it’s saying and talking about. Perfect performance from Burstyn, too. Don’t know how the hell they got her to sign onto this. Nice post.

SJHoneywell said...

This is a film I'm glad to have seen and never want to see again. It's brilliant, but it's also horrible and awful.

Aronofsky is one of the few directors who can make me love everything he does except for the stories he tells.

DVD Infatuation said...

T%hanks for the comments!

dtmmr: I have the same reaction each time I see this movie. It really gets my mind spinning. A4nd yes, Burstyn was just about perfect!

SJHoneywell: I can certainly understand your reaction: as I said above, this movie is devastating.

CXZOMBIE1980 said...

I remember the day I went to see this film with my girlfriend. Like 30 out of 40 people walked out on the film at various points. It was specially hard for us to watch because we were doing a lot of drugs back then and we had had a fight about her giving massage was a fucking lousy job. I hated it because in the spa she worked inI knew some girls were giving happy endings and I thought addiction had gotten to her and she had given in. After the film we remained seated long after the credits ended she was crying and we didn't say shit until the next day. A powerful a film as they come. Specially if you have tried hard drugs with someone you LOVE...

DVD Infatuation said...

@CXZOMBIE1980: Thank you, sir, for stopping over from Twitter, and sharing that story with us. I know how brutal the film was for me, and I have no history whatsoever with drug use. To watch it while at the same time understanding what the characters were going through, that must have been tough!

Thanks for the comment, and all the support you give me on twitter. It is greatly appreciated!

Jamie said...

I agree with SJHoneywell - I love it, but I never want to see it again!

Aronofsky is one of my favorites, but I can't bring myself to rewatch this one, no matter how good it is. That is one of the testaments to how powerful it is.

I love your site by the way. Keep it up!

Unknown said...

I've seen this film twice and both times I've been left completely devastated. This is a film that I think should be seen by everyone. As cinematic experiences go. This film is harrowing and beautiful to look at. However like films such as Irréversible it really should come with a heavy warning.