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Requiem for a Dream

Darren Aronofsky's controversial and critically acclaimed 2000 film adaptation of Hubert Selby, Jr.'s novel.

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A tough film, but well worth the effort

  • Apr 25, 2003
  • by
A film that tries to show us the evils of substance abuse by putting us into the heads of the abusers as much as possible. The film is brilliantly edited so as to become more and more disjointed as the main characters fall deeper into despair. This is an "artsy" movie that for the most part uses all the "cool" camera tricks, jump cuts, split screens, etc. for positive effect and not just to show off.

We follow Jared Leto and his friend Marlon Wayans, along with Leto's girlfriend Jennifer Connelly, as they decend deeper into their addiction. At one point, they even come into a lot of money and opportunity, but the drugs destroy it all. The other main story follows Leto's mother, played by Ellen Burstyn, a lonely older woman who believes she's going to be on a popular TV show, and decides she must loose weight. She starts on diet pills and begins popping them like candy.

The three younger characters chart a more predictable course. Connelly and Leto have a lovely romance slowly come unraveled. Wayans sees his dreams slipping through his fingers. We've seen much of this before, but never this graphically. We aren't held at a distance by the director but rather we are pulled in to see things through their eyes. All three actors are quite good, and Connelly, in particular is a revelation. She'd done fine work before (and won an Oscar, of course, for her next film, A BEAUTIFUL MIND). But it's her work in this film that should have drawn Oscar's attention. Her final degredation is just about as low as we have seen a character sink in many a year. Leto is always a good performer, and his final outcome is also a corker. Wayans meets justice in a more predictable way, and his scenes in prison are almost farcical and are the only times the director totally loses control over the tone of his film. Wayans is absolutely fine...the script and filmmaking strand him..and that's why the film only gets 4 stars. It really deserves 4.5.

The reason, I think, that Connelly didn't get her Oscar nod for this film is that Ellen Burstyn absolutely runs away with the movie. To say that her performance is brave only begins to state the facts. Her character, basically, is driven mad by her addictions. And we see it from her point of view. We see how the delusions she suffers COULD drive you nuts. We pity this poor, lonely woman, whose son is constantly stealing from her to buy drugs. She is deluded. Burstyn becomes physically unraveled as well. I just don't know how she was able to do it. In years past, we always rave about actor's undergoing physical transformations for their parts (DeNiro in RAGING BULL, Hanks in CASTAWAY, Zellweger in BRIDGET JONES!!) but the transformation Burstyn allows herself to go through is shocking and emotionally draining.

This movie is graphic and brutal and not for young kids. But even though it is R-rated, this could be a "scared straight" film for teens. And adults absolutely should see it. I look forward to director Aronsky's next effort!!!

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More Requiem for a Dream reviews
review by . January 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
***1/2 out of ****     Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream" asks the question: what is a drug? After watching this film, I just don't know how to provide a proper answer. Such an intense experience leaves you feeling drained; and I've been finding that a lot lately with Aronofsky's films in particular. Don't worry; it's a good kind of drained that I'm feeling; the kind you get from staring too much at too many things. "Requiem" has so much going on that it's almost overwhelming, …
Quick Tip by . May 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I can see what all the fuss is about, and why this movie still gets talked about more than a decade after its release.  Aronofsky pulls out all the stops, and this is one of the most relentlessly directed movies I've seen in a long time.   It's effective, but in a weird, kind of converse way.   Addiction looks terrible, yes, but getting a haircut would look pretty hellish if Aronofsky filmed and cut it the way he did the final twenty minutes of this film.  It made me …
Quick Tip by . February 21, 2011
Schools should drop the D.A.R.E. program and just show this film to fifth-graders. They'd never do drugs.
Quick Tip by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
One of the most terrifying and provacative stories I have seen about the destructive power of addiction, and the many forms that that can take when we give ourselves over to pleasure and abandon purpose.
Quick Tip by . June 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
An absolute masterpiece of the modern cinema, Darren Aronofsky's dark meditation on themes of addiction, desperation, and self-destruction is one of the most important films of the new millennium. A brilliantly directed and acted film with an incredible score by Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet.
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Shows how addictions can appear in many different ways, and how it can affect your life. Such an amazing and powerful film.
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Wow. Powerful. Disturbing. And proved Marlon Wayan can do more than just crappy movies w/ his brothers.
Quick Tip by . January 21, 2010
A stark film that looks deep into the human psyche and really shows the downward spiral of addiction with an unflinching eye. Terrific film!
review by . November 13, 2008
Requiem For A Dream
Requiem is one of those little known movies, quietly powerful, that will leave you reeling with emotion in its wake. Even unfeeling husks like myself will not escape unscathed.     This is a beautifully mastered film about drug addiction, but not in standard, drugs-are-bad format. Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto) is a junkie who dreams of being a better person but still regularly hawks his mother's battered TV set for fix money. He and his friend Tyrone Love (Marlon Wayans) and girlfriend …
review by . December 17, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Performances, cinematic style, and story line despite the mood      Cons: None for me, but the very bleak nature of it will turn many off      The Bottom Line: There are films with unpleasant things to say but that need saying. Requiem should be near the top of this imaginary list.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.      There have been more than a hundred reviews …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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Employing shock techniques and sound design in a relentless sensory assault,Requiem for a Dreamis about nothing less than the systematic destruction of hope. Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., and adapted by Selby and director Darren Aronofsky, this is undoubtedly one of the most effective films ever made about the experience of drug addiction (both euphoric and nightmarish), and few would deny that Aronofsky, in following his breakthrough filmPi, has pushed the medium to a disturbing extreme, thrusting conventional narrative into a panic zone of traumatized psyches and bodies pushed to the furthest boundaries of chemical tolerance. It's too easy to call this a cautionary tale; it's a guided tour through hell, with Aronofsky as our bold and ruthless host.

The film focuses on a quartet of doomed souls, but it's Ellen Burstyn--in a raw and bravely triumphant performance--who most desperately embodies the downward spiral of drug abuse. As lonely widow Sara Goldfarb, she invests all of her dreams in an absurd self-help TV game show, jolting her bloodstream with diet pills and coffee while her son Harry (Jared Leto) shoots heroin with his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) and slumming girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly). They're careening toward madness at varying speeds, and Aronofsky tracks this gloomy process by endlessly repeating the imagery of their deadly routines. Tormented by her dietary regime, Sara even imagines a carnivorous refrigerator in one...

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Director: Darren Aronofsky
Genre: Drama
Release Date: October 6, 2000
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 1hr 42min
Studio: Artisan Entertainment
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