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Requiem for a Dream

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Requiem for a Dream

Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Rated: NR
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: October 2000
Genre: Drama


*Also starring: Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, Christopher McDonald, Sean Gullette, Bill Buell, Keith David, Louise Lasser, Ben Shenkman



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Review by Steve Rhodes
4 stars out of 4

Sara Goldfarb is being harassed, literally, by her refrigerator in writer and director Darren Aronofsky's REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. Aronofsky, who rocketed to fame with his first indie film, PI, is back with a roller coaster ride about drug addition. It is an audacious film that will certainly win an Academy Award nomination for Ellen Burstyn, who plays Sara. And if there were any justice in the world, it would win one for Aronofsky as well. This movie, however, is the complete antithesis of a Hollywood production and so has little chance of being recognized with Best Picture or Best Director nominations.

First and foremost, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM is an assault on our senses. Easily the most visually audacious movie of the year, its camerawork (Matthew Libatique) and editing (Jay Rabinowitz) are astounding. Approximating the effects of drugs on the brain, sometimes the film speeds up like a bullet train, and other times the action slows to a crawl. Especially effective are the close-up images of everything from drug preparation to pupil dilation to paper airplanes.

The cornucopia of images flow over our systems like a drug rush. We aren't merely witnessing the cataclysmic effects of drug addiction; we are experiencing them up close and personal. The director makes just the right choice in minimizing the surrealistic scenes in favor of speeding up the realistic ones.

>From the first frame, the director comes out swinging. The film doesn't really start, per se. Instead, we are thrown into a story that has been going on for a while. We feel much like viewers who have just turned on in the middle of a television series.

When we meet the angelic-looking Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto), who loves his Ma, Sara, dearly and adores his girlfriend, Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly), he is busy stealing his Ma's television. After pawning it, he buys drugs to get high with his friend, Tyrone C. Love (Marlon Wayans). His mother just heads down to the pawn dealer to buy it back again in a ritual that seems to have been going on since the dawn of time. Even if Burstyn's acting is the best of the bunch, all of the leads deliver probably the best performances of their careers.

Sad and lonely Sara has her own addiction, television, especially a motivational show starring Tappy Tibbons (Christopher McDonald). Its big rules on its road to nirvana include no red meat and no refined sugar. One day she is invited to come on the show sometime in the indefinite future. This causes Sara to move up the addiction chain. In order to get into her old red dress for the show, she goes to a diet doctor. ("How are you, Mrs. Goldfarb," the nurse asks perfunctorily, as Sara steps onto the scales. "Enormous," she replies in embarrassment.) The doctor prescribes salvation in the form of a heavy regiment of diet drugs. Although losing weight initially makes her popular among the little old Jewish ladies that live in her building and wile away their days trying to soak up the sun, eventually it destroys her body and her mind.

Meanwhile Harry, Tyrone and Marion are busy devising a series of get-rich-quick schemes involving selling drugs. Harry brags to his Ma that he is working for "sort of a distributor for a big importer." So hyper with diet pill uppers that she looks in danger of exploding, she doesn't ask for any details. Their plans, however, are thwarted by their overriding need to consume what they are supposed to be selling. This puts them down a path of destruction that leaves them doing absolutely anything to get drugs to feed their habits. For Marion, the bottom of the pit occurs when she puts on a two woman sex show for a room filled with suits.

As the four of them descend into their own hells, it is hard to watch but impossible to look away. Caring deeply about each of the characters, we would no more turn away from them than we would a loved one. When the ending credits come, your audience will probably be like mine. No one moved or breathed. We were all frozen in our seats.

REQUIEM FOR A DREAM runs 1:42. It is not rated but would be NC-17 for drug usage, graphic images, nudity, sex and language and would be acceptable for college students and older.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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