Requiem for a Dream

Pi established the fact that Darren Aronofsky did not necessarily think by conventional rules of filmmaking. Requiem for a Dream proves that his first film was no fluke. Aronofsky's extreme style quickly catches the eye and forces the viewer the pay attention. Requiem for a Dream is a very hard movie to sit through, but worth every moment of it. Unfortunately, Requiem for a Dream came out just as the government again stood on their soapbox about morality in movies. The MPAA rated it NC-17 which prompted Artisan Entertainment to release the movie unrated. The main issue was that if the MPAA applied consistent standards, Requiem would be an R (Eyes Wide Shut anybody?). They should either continue to rate movies R which should be NC-17, rate them all NC-17, or overhaul the ratings process. Unfortunately, this greatly diminished the potential audience for this movie, based on the book by Hubert Selby, Jr.

Requiem is about the devastating impact that drugs have on people, and how far they can fall. Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn, The Yards, Playing By Heart) lives alone and does little else but watch television. She receives a letter stating she will appear on television which prompts her to begin losing weight to fit into an old red dress. Dieting does not work, so she begins taking diet pills. The constant pills make her feel better, and when her body adjusts, she begins taking more. Her son Harry (Jared Leto, Fight Club, American Psycho) is experimenting with selling drugs with his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans, Scary Movie, Dungeons & Dragons). However, they break one major rule; they are junkies themselves. They are selling drugs to raise money for more drugs. Harry's girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly, Waking the Dead, Pollack) is also a user.

Each person's story is harrowing. They all undergo visible changes as they slowly lose to the effect of their drugs of choice. The choices they make as they become increasingly desperate show just how bad their addiction is. Connelly, Leto, and Wayans all give good, emotional performances. Wayans in particular; it is nice to see he can actually act. Burstyn's performance towers above her co-stars. Sara is basically a lonely person who wants companionship. Her son does not come often to visit, and when he does, thing do not go well. Her diet pills make her feel good, and she likes the feeling. She does not realize that she is becoming addicted, and does not realize that she will likely never appear on television. Burstyn looks like she is in actual pain during some of her hallucinations.

Aronofsky is a master at visual style. He splits the screen to show Burstyn's face and her diet pills on the table as she reads instructions on what to take. He speeds up events, having entire parties take place in a matter of seconds. When each person shoots up, a rapid series of images flash across the screen. A syringe empties, blood cells flow, pupils dilate, and the user breathes a sigh of content. Aronofsky makes watching the movie feel like a bad trip. His frequent camera tricks are disquieting and at times uncomfortable to sit through. Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet collaborate on a haunting, creepy soundtrack that permeates the movie. It's all about establishing a tone. Most of the film is dark and foreboding; dangerous. Make no mistake about it, Requiem for a Dream is not for the squeamish, but it is a good movie.

Mongoose Rates It: Really Good.
1 hour, 45 minutes. Not Rated, but originally was rated NC-17. It contains nudity, sexuality, language, and substantial drug use, but compared to what else is Rated R, it should have been a hard R.

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