"REQUIEM FOR A DREAM"|
102 minutes | Unrated
Opened: Friday, November 3, 2000 (SF)
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Starring Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Ellen Burstyn, Marlon Wayans, Christopher McDonald, Louise Lasser, Keith David, Sean Gullette, Denise Dowse, Marcia Dean Kurtz, Ben Shenkman, Dylan Baker
Cameo: Hurbert Selby, Jr.
This film is on the Best of 2000 list.
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 15%|
LETTERBOX: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
This movie grabs you by the lapels and shakes you so effectively that it won't lose much impact on the small screen. But you should definitely watch it in letterbox because Aronofsky uses every inch of the screen in his many composite shots.
VIDEO RELEASE: 05.22.2001
This is one of the best DVD packages on a single disk. Not only is it chock full of insights on the fantastic commentary tracks by Aronofsky and DP Matthew Libatique (who is a wee bit too techie), but it's clever enough to carry parts of the film through the DVD interface: You navigate through a static-y Tappy Tibbons infomercial.|
OTHER NOTABLE BONUS MATERIAL
TONS! Original making-of, deleted scenes with commentary (+ Marlon Wayans doing Jar-Jar Binks and a 4-minute take of Selby's cameo), "Anatomy of a Scene" (a kind of dissection of Aronofsky's composition), Ellen Burstyn interviews Hubert Selby, Jr., Tappy infomercial, whole web site, 2 trailers, TV ads -- and, if you can believe it, more!
1.85:1 ratio; 5.1 Dolby
DVD RATING: ****
Double feature! Check out our DVD review of Aronofsky's "Pi"
'Requiem' a graphic, soul-rattling, cerebral and cinematically ingenious runaway train of drug addiction
Forget every movie you've ever seen about the downward spiral of drug addiction. "Drugstore Cowboy," "Sid and Nancy," "Trainspotting," "Permanent Midnight," and more recently "Jesus' Son" -- these films are almost as innocuous as "Alice in Wonderland" compared to "Requiem for a Dream."
Director Darren Aronofsky's follow-up to the uniquely mind-bending mathematical-theological thriller "Pi," this adaptation of a 1978 novel by Hubert Selby Jr. is a soul-rattling, cerebral and cinematically ingenious runaway train of gruesome overindulgence.
Set against the forlorn backdrop of a deteriorating Coney Island, "Requiem" stars a rail-thin Jared Leto ("Fight Club," "Girl, Interrupted") as Harry, a minor-league heroin dealer who has already copped a bad habit for his own product. As the movie opens he's broken into his mother's apartment to steal her TV -- which is chained to the wall because it's not the first time this has happened -- so he can pawn it to pay for a hit.
His mother (Ellen Burstyn) -- who cowers in a closet as her son ransacks her home -- is a lonely, ungracefully aging, threadbare woman with addictions of her own. From a deep cranny in her recliner, she watches self-help infomercials all day long and pops under-the-counter diet pills by the handful.
Even though it's painfully clear these are, at the very least, damaged people, Aronofsky deliberately gives the picture a misleading air of heroin chic at first. He introduces Harry's carefree best friend (Marlon Wayans, in a surprising solid dramatic performance) and his beautiful, urbane girlfriend (the under-rated Jennifer Connelly) with whom he has a powerful romantic bond. (In a poignant scene of intimacy, Aronofsky creatively splits the screen to show a close-up of tender caress on one half, and the rapturous facial reaction on the other.)
We know they're all junkies, but they're attractive, healthy junkies with dreams for the future that appear to be within grasp.
Then Aronofsky pulls the rug out from the characters and the audience, using it to drag all of us down a dark flight of stairs and into a harrowing dungeon of chemical dependency.
Shooting up slowly becomes a several-times-a-day routine for Harry and company as they get yoked to their devouring need for drugs. Heroin deals misfire and savings goes up in smoke. Marion (Connelly) begins trading her body (and with it her fragile self-esteem) for a fix, sometimes at the urging of her once-protective love, who promises "just this once."
Meanwhile, Harry's mother is descending into her own erratic, eventually hallucinogenic, parallel purgatory. Her weight loss drugs are essentially nothing but a dangerous mix of speed and amphetamines that she's begun combining randomly in back-to-back doses that send her mind into a waking nightmare from which she can't escape.
It's not just that these scenes are hard to watch. It's that "Requiem" becomes a horror movie of genuine horrors (infected needles, traumatic aberrations, lascivious sexual indignities) amplified ten-fold by Aronofsky's psyche-plumbing, genius-level reinvention of the cinematic drug trip. Yet it's exactly this unhinged brilliance and visionary retooling of the genre which makes it impossible to look away no matter how graphic and grisly things get.
Matching Aronofsky's consecrated focus on the project, his entire cast give nothing short of profound performances, immersing themselves in their characters' disquieting subconscious minds.
Leto inspires pained commiseration as he drives hopped-up, paranoid Harry off a metaphorical cliff at 100 miles per hour. Connelly inspires solemn pity as Marion debases herself in a drug-fueled orgy after her habit has consumed her every resource. And Burstyn seizes the heart of the movie with a astonishing, plaintive, forlorn performance that gives way to chaos and bewildered disorientation as her character's brittle mental state is sent into fierce convulsions by her inadvertently haphazard diet drug cocktails.
In the early going, the film has some trouble finding its footing, in part just because Aronofsky's methods are such a departure from customary filmmaking that it's hard to understand what he's aiming for at times. When a refrigerator lurches out of its kitchen nook and heaves at Burstyn in a hallucination, is it supposed to be scary or funny, or both? Why do these dope fiends seem (at first anyway) so handsome and robust?
It should be noted also that if it were not for Aronofsky's innovative sense of visual kinetics and cinematic power, the story wouldn't be all that compelling until the third act. But "Requiem" is exhaustively different right up to the closing credits, which is why you'll leave the theater very shaken but at the same time spectacularly impressed.