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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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...