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Requiem for a Dream
IMDB rating:
Darren Aronofsky
Ellen Burstyn as Sara Goldfarb
Jared Leto as Harry Goldfarb
Jennifer Connelly as Marion Silver
Marlon Wayans as Tyrone C. Love
Christopher McDonald as Tappy Tibbons
Janet Sarno as Mrs. Pearlman
Suzanne Shepherd as Mrs. Scarlini
Joanne Gordon as Mrs. Ovadia
Charlotte Aronofsky as Mrs. Miles
Mark Margolis as Mr. Rabinowitz
Michael Kaycheck as Donut Cop (as Mike Kaycheck)
Jack O'Connell as Corn Dog Stand Boss
Storyline: Drugs. They consume mind, body and soul. Once you're hooked, you're hooked. Four lives. Four addicts. Four failures. Despite their aspirations of greatness, they succumb to their addictions. Watching the addicts spiral out of control, we bear witness to the dirtiest, ugliest portions of the underworld addicts reside in. It is shocking and eye-opening but demands to be seen by both addicts and non-addicts alike.
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Like being repeatedly punched in the back of the head by Mike Tyson
It's difficult to know what to say about Requiem For A Dream. I first saw it in the cinema when it was released in England and I have never seen an audience react to a film like this one. The climactic sequence, where the protagonists are effectively destroyed by their addictions, seemed to trigger a bout of heavy breathing in the audience. As it was ending I heard a few people crying. My girlfriend and I didn't say a single word to each other on the bus home.

I bought the film on DVD the day it came out, but it took me around six months to watch it again. And only then because a friend of mine was curious. If anything, the impact was heavier than the first time I watched it and I've vowed never to watch it ever again.

Yet I have still awarded a rating of 10 on imdb and would definitely assert that it's one of the three greatest films I have ever seen. Why? The acting is just amazing. Jennifer Connolly gives the best performance of her career (not too tricky considering the movies she's been in) and remains stunningly beautiful (in a haggard sort of a way) and noble even when she's roped into a gang bang to fund her heroin habit. Jared Leto annoyed me intensely in Fight Club but he's perfect as hapless junky Harry - forever exuding an air of kindly incompetence that endears him to the audience but that will ultimately destroy him. Marlon Wayans is equally brilliant - wearing a beaming smile for the first half of the film and a compelling look of confusion and betrayal for the rest of it.

As for Ellen Burstyn... never has an actress been so unfairly cheated out of an Oscar (and I've seen the atrocity that won Marcia Gay Harden that Oscar for). She is just the picture of sadness the whole film through - a heartbreaking example of what loneliness can do to vulnerable people. The scene where she complains to Harry about being old is honestly one of the most tragic things I've ever seen and it makes me want to break down just thinking about it.

As such, I can only recommend this incredibly important movie with certain reservations. If your favourite film is 'You've Got Mail' steer well clear. If 'Snow Dogs' has been your most thrilling cinematic experience of this year then put this film back on the shelf. Trust me, it'll save the costs incurred by those expensive therapy sessions.

However, if you believe that cinema is an important tool in helping us understand ourselves and that we will only achieve self awareness by plumbing the absolute depths of despair and self-destruction then you must watch Requiem For a Dream.
Downer Picturesque.
I just saw Requiem For A Dream and I have to say, I was blown away. Not since 1995's The Basketball Diaries, has a film so accurately portrayed the craving and depravity of a person dealing with(or succumbing to) addiction. It is a beautifully articulated piece of artwork, intricately presented on a silver platter. Director Darren Aronofsky shines in his brilliant direction and style, in this depiction of the downward spiral of the lives of four people, living with their respective addictions.

Jared Leto, gives an excellent, solid performance as Harry Goldfarb, a man living an inch from his life, always in search of a fix. In an emotional powerhouse of a performance, he proves to audiences that he can shine through in a major role as opposed to previous smaller roles in Fight Club and American Psycho. However, it appears to be a Hollywood in-joke of sorts in that it seems he has a penchant for mutilation or at least the roles he seems to take on seem to have for him. In Fight Club, he had his face rearranged and in American Psycho, his head cut off. In Requiem however, it is the mutilation of his life, his whole character, that takes centerstage, ending in a satisfying climax of gargantuan proportions in which he gives the audience more than their money's worth in his power-packed performance.

However, the real star of the film lies in the talent of Ellen Burstyn. Audiences will wonder at her appearance at the beginning of the film, not really knowing if it is, in fact, her. Her performance as a television, sugar and eventually, diet pill-addicted mother of Harry shows that she's still got it after all these years. If you want to make a comparison of her thespian skills throughout the years, watch the revived version of The Exorcist. She can only get better. She takes on the role of Sarah Goldfarb with gusto, never backing down for a second. Totally throwing herself into the role, you tend to forget how she really looks like, given only fleeting moments in the film which suggest her real appearance. I have to say, she's got guts. How many female actresses her age would dare to have a camera strapped to her person(as Aronofsky so creatively did), an inch away from her face with a wide angle lens? She definately deserves her Oscar nomination, if not, the Oscar itself, for her tour-de-force performance.

The other characters themselves hold their own with the two abovementioned powerhouses. Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans both realistically portray their respective roles as Marion Silver, Harry's girlfriend and rebellious suburbanite chick, who degenerates to prostitution for her fix and Tyrone C. Love, Harry's best friend and fellow pusher. Here, Wayans shows that he can lose his comic edge if needed, to portray a boy trapped in a man's body, just yearning for his mother's approval but seeking it instead, in drugs. Connelly as well, who has been taking on smaller roles and projects over the last few years, is finally given enough room to play with her character and gives a winning performance in Requiem.

The cinematography of Matthew Libatique gives total light on the chracterizations of the people in habiting Aronofsky's sick world, from the sliently flickering sick-green flourescents to the exaggerated wide angle shots and the beautifully sad and haunting Coney Island picturesque of the pier which suggests a certain beauty amidst all the sadness and depravity. A Downer Picturesque, as portrayed by the photographs of Robert Frank and the Frank influenced cinematography of Darius Khondji in Seven. In my books, Matthew Libatique has just joined those ranks.

Jay Rabinowitz' editing stands out as well, with in-your-face smash title cards(emphasising the downward crash of the character's lives through the seasons), as well as the close-up constructions of the drug taking process. The latter sequences, edited so tightly and seamlessly, make the moment so beautiful but so fleeting, as is the case with drugs. The sequences are almost like a drug, making you crave for more of them, a fix which you get, whenever the characters get their own fix in the film. Lots of people might misinterpret this as glamourising the drug culture but these moments are so fleeting that they're over before you even know it, and then it's back to Harry, Marion, Sarah and Tyrone's sick and depraved search for the next fix, which very accurately portrays the twisted quest of a true and sincere addiction.

The film is also superbly scored by Clint Mansell and hauntingly performed by the Kronos Quartet. A series of hauntingly shocking, yet mind-numbingly beautiful pieces which linger in your head long after you've left the cinema.

Lastly, the direction of Aronofsky, brilliant, beautiful, empathic. There are not enough words to describe his direction or this film and I think the best way to say it is that I am speechless. Aronofsky has shown me that, jaded by so many films, something can still prompt me to sit up and take notice. To see something that I have never seen before or learn something I don't already know. The ending, is sheer power. A masterpiece of all the elements of what filmmaking is about, mixed together in some sick souffle and thrown into your face, burning hot and scalding. The film leaves a deep impression, in fact, a huge scar. And it is a scar I am proud to wear.
The triumph of form over substance ranks as audience abuse
This movie struck me as utterly phony, which was surprising as Aronfsky's prior film, "Pi," was amazing. Never once, from the very beginning, did I believe I was watching anything but specific actors play-acting. Ellen Burtsyn's thick slice of ham cut close to the bone was embarrassing, and her New York "Jewish" accent coming in a film released in the year 2000 struck me as outrageous! I mean, are we going back to "The Goldbergs" and 1950?

The whole film struck me as ersatz, artificial -- it had this 1950 junkie sensibility of Selby grafted onto this "hip hop" style that was simply jarring. The screenplay, which was co-written with Selby, was so predictable I began amusing the woman I was watching the film with by actually giving her the next line. I was right too often for comfort. The massacre during the dope dealing sequence in the back of the supermarket not only was telegraphed far ahead, but was incredibly STUPID. I did not believe the scene for a minute. Is it supposed to be a dream? I ask that as it has NO LOGIC.

Perhaps the biggest problem were the two leads -- Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly. While their acting was quite good, they looked like they had deplaned at JFK from Beverly Hills that very morning. Connelly is too good looking for the role (she does not look the part of a junkie; in contrast, Samantha Morton, who granted is a better actress, looks the part of a junkie in "Jesus's Son"); a woman that looks like Connelly could be a call girl making many thousands of dollars a night, which made her "descent" into hell ridiculous. What is the problem with her character: she's just plain stupid?

Leto looks like a male model. (There used to be an old joke when I was a kid: Funny, it don't look Jewish. Leto, whose character I assume is at least half Jewish, looks as pure Irish as Connelly; in fact, they look enough alike to be brother and sister, which I'm sure was intentional but which was downright weird.)

The ending, the denouement of the three main characters' stories, was so over-the-top that my friend and I began laughing out loud. (I will say, Burstyn was excellent during the harrowing scene of the force feeding. The look on her face of pain, humiliation and resignation was haunting -- a great moment in screen acting.) Just intercutting two of the stories, son and mother, would have been enough, but the sexual imagery and situation of Connelly's character was so evocative of a throwing everything in but the kitchen sink mentality, we just couldn't stop howling. I mean -- COME ON! I'm chuckling right now thinking of the scene. It certainly dissipated the power of the son's horror (though not that of Burstyn, due to the great control she displayed in her acting; perhaps Aronfsky should learn the value of SUBTLTY from that part of her performance).

I think people were wowed by the directoral pyrotechnics, but frankly, this film's triumph of form over substance ranks as audience abuse!
The ultimate "art as pain" movie.
If you subscribe to the masochistic belief that great art must be painful, then by all means, see Requiem for a Dream. If, on the other hand, you'd rather not spend 2 hours having Aronofsky pick at you like a scab, skip it. The director's intention is clearly to upset you, give you a headache, and instill in you a hatred of addictive behavior. He succeeds marvelously.

Wayans, in the closing sequence of the film, vomits into a bucket of some white viscous somethingorother he's stirring.

That about sums up my reaction to Requiem for a Dream.
Apparently, making sense is optional if you have a split screen.
It baffles me how Aronofsky has managed to fool audiences and critics to rave about not one but two nonsensical stories in the last few years. If you manage to keep your cool under the barrage of imagery thrown at you from frame one you should be able to spot plot holes in this film so large that they'll make Pi's nonsensical ending look like plausible narrative.

What bothers me most with these, apart from the fact that they make this film essentially pointless, is that they are all there simply to justify some supposedly shocking visuals. I can't help it, I must provide a list.

SPOILER SPACE (you shouldn't care, but it's the rules)

* * * * * *

1. Harry goes to a hospital to get his obviously gangrened arm cured. A doctor spots him as a drug addict and calls the police WITHOUT TENDING TO THE ARM FIRST. The weirdest thing about this is that the poor guy is later sent back to the hospital to have his arm cut off. The good part for Harry is that he should become a rich man in no time, after suing the doctor, the hospital and probably the police.

2. A dealer won't sell heroin for money, but he will trade it for sex. He could hire all the hookers he wants with the money he'd earn selling the heroin, specially considering he's the only provider for the whole city at that time. Still, all he wants is to see some lesbian sex live. Apparently, this is in the movie only to create tension between the lead and his girlfriend. Well, and to show Jennifer Connelly naked.

3. A previously healthy old lady is allowed to degenerate mentally to the point of being confined and given electroshocks without receiving any help, even though she's been shown previously socializing with many other people. For some reason the only person who realizes she's sick is his son, who doesn't care much for her anyway. Not that he does anything about it, either. Strangely enough, there's a shot of her friends waiting in the asylum looking worried while she receives electrical discharges without anesthetics.

4. Even though heroin can be injected practically anywhere, the lead will do it always in the same place. Even when the spot becomes a purulent wound he'll still do it the exact same position. Not an inch above, not in the other arm, not in a leg. Right in the middle of the wound.

* * * * *

END SPOILERS (but there are more of these, believe me)

You know, I wouldn't worry about plot holes that much if the filmmakers had set out to create just a series of disgusting images to show them around. The thing is they didn't. They made an attempt to create something vaguely resembling a storyline, they even had a shot at a subtext. They simply failed miserably. Let's see, this film seems to be about addiction. The points made about addiction in the film are:

a) Many people have addictions of different kinds.

b) Addictions aren't good things.

c) Disgusting things happen when people let their addictions go out of control.

and maybe, just maybe...

d) With addictions at first you'll feel good, but then you'll feel bad.

So much for depth.

But we might also have some character development, right? We could neglect story and subtext and still have strong, compelling characters.

Just we don't.

Even the best of the characters we're shown is one dimensional and flat. Everything the characters are or do is put there to be dismantled later, which makes it all feel like a cardboard building in a Godzilla movie. It's fake and cheap. Everything. The leads' love story, the mother-son relationship, friendship between Harry and Tyrone, and between Sarah and the other women. Nothing feels real because Aronofski only cares about the next cool shot.

This film might get you distracted enough the first time you watch it and make you to believe there's some depth behind that nauseous feeling in your stomach. In the end, it's just empty imagery planned to create a nauseous feeling in your stomach.

If you want imagery go and see the latest summer blockbuster. It might at least be some fun.
A movie to scare teenagers away from drugs.
Honestly, I hated the movie. Yes, it was very shocking and unforgettable, but it was also very grimy and pessimistic. It's just not the type of movie that will leave you deep in thought or searching for a meaning. It was very visual and had great actors, but the story itself was awful. After it finished, I felt very sick and disappointed of the world. It is disgusting and the only way I will ever watch it again is when I scare my children away from drugs.

Overall, if you're into films with degrading characters that gives you no hope into the future, this movie is perfect for you. I saw it once and will never watch it again.
Over-rated morality tale
The real descent into the quagmire is the last 30 minutes of this film, not the characters within the film. According to this film this is what you can expect from drug abuse: 1. Being force-fed in a public hospital (have these people heard of the IV drip?) and then ECT without any form of anaethesia (every bone in that woman's body would have shattered)- did they take her to a hospital in Eastern Europe?? 2. People with severe septicaemia will be denied hospital treatment and thrown into a cell on suspicion of being a drug addict until they require amputation. Watch and learn - it's fine to be a junkie as long as you don't get caught. 3. A man will be allowed to vomit into food being prepared in a government run correction facility. If you are bad, you eat vomit. OK? 4. A middle class chick will end up on the other end of a black dildo in order to feed her drug habit. Yawn... I mean, this film says more about what kind of overblown morality Americans are willing to accept in films than anything about drug abuse or its consequences. The anti-drug message descends into hyperbole and farce and I found myself laughing hysterically where I was supposed to be shocked and repulsed. Give me a break. These sanitised stories are just too ridiculous. As well as this, we are offered the same old, same old routine of white-powder-imagery and colourful-pill-popping. These guys injected something and were bopping around the place, next minute they snort something and they are all on the nod...go figure? And please, the heavy handedness of the junkie losing an arm...spare me, I am not that easily shocked or unaware of symbolism-overkill.
Simply Put This Is A Masterwork
I vaguely heard a few years ago that the director of PI followed it up by making a film based on a novel featuring drug addicts called REQUIEM FOR A DREAM . It got a couple of good reviews but I couldn't help noticing it took another six years for Darren Aronofsky to make another movie entitled THE FOUNTAIN which was one of the worst pieces of pretentious nonsense I ever watched . Still however the cult of REQUIEM FOR A DREAM grew and grew over the years . It is highly rated amongst the prolific voters on this website and has received almost aggressive praise from some quarters . And yet I had serious doubts to its worth as it was ignored by most award ceremonies and only received a very limited release in cinemas . Certainly I had no real intention of watching it until it appeared on a Sky movie channel . How good was it ? Let me put it like this - 72 hours after seeing it I still can't get it out of my mind

!!!! MILD SPOILERS !!!!!

Aronofsky has made an entirely expressionist film . He expresses in visual form what the characters are feeling . This goes all the way back to almost a hundred years ago to a movement in Germany and since then we see influences in productions as diverse as the BBC serial of QUATERMASS 2 to Harvey Keitel's drunken sequence in MEAN STREETS but I can't think of anything where this technique is better suited than here where the mental as well as the physical disintegration of the characters take place . The technique may put off a potential audience but that's the point , the characters are going through a living nightmare that they will never recover fully from and Aronofsky conveys their misery totally

The director also brings a subtle in joke of semiotics . In THE GODFATHER before someone is killed the colour orange is prominent . In CHILDREN OF MEN someone is peeling an orange before they're killed . It's a subliminal code used in films but one that is familiar to pretentious film students and movie geeks . When the characters enter a drugs den the audience are shown a close up of an orange being peeled and then all hell breaks loose . Expressionism and semiotics in the same movie ? Not necessarily the work of a genius , nor is it the mark of a genius for noticing this but should still be appreciated

One criticism the film has is that it's rabid anti drugs propaganda . Such criticism seems to be missing the point since Sara is addicted to legally prescribed drugs - amphetamine based diet pills and barbiuates . It's not a subtle film but does make subtle points that the amphetamine has almost certainly caused Sara to become schizophrenic . Likewise much of the drug taking and destruction is fuelled entirely by self delusion such as Harry and Marion wanting to open a store funded by the money they made dealing drugs . One criticism that is possibly valid is that there's medical facts that are ignored such as electro convulsive therapy being used on a conscious patient or how limbs are amputated but Aronofsky has rightly ignored these facts in order to make a more shocking film

Make no mistake that this is a truly shocking film . Compared to this TRAINSPOTTING is a cartoon for children and no other film has ever portrayed the misery and danger of drugs so potently . Nine years after its limited release the soundtrack by Clint Mansell has become legend and rightly so . However REQUIEM FOR A DREAM itself deserves to become legendary amongst a mainstream audience . It is quite simply a masterwork and a film that whilst I'm in no hurry to see again due to its harrowing content is a film I will never forget
Absolutely one of the most overrated films of all time
You know, the problem with this flick is that the director is really good, the actors are really good, but the plot is just too stinking far fetched. I mean, come on, a little girl on girl sex is NOT something to get really upset about. I mean, working in an office for a living is a LOT worse than that. There are literally thousands of women who do that sorta thing for a living.

And then there's the problem with the guy and his arm. First problem with that is that no junkie, NO JUNKIE, would keep shooting into a vein that is that messed up. Junkies are not that stupid. They have their own lore and protocols, that they pass to each other, and that includes using different veins. Aronofsky obviously has never met a real life junkie. And that crap about getting arrested out of a doctors office. ANYWHERE in this country, if a doctor refused him medical treatment, dang, even if a doctor called the cops on the guy, that doctor would get his ass sued from here to eternity. There's something called doctor patient privilege, they're not ALLOWED to call the cops, ever, under any circumstances, barring a direct threat to someone else's life. AND if the was imprisoned, denied treatment, and then lost his arm, attorney's would be lining up to sue not only the doctor, but the state where he was imprisoned.

SO, even if the the incredibly unlikely event that the junkie let his arm go that bad, then the astronomically unlikely event that a doctor would risk being sued and losing his license to practice medicine by calling the cops, and THEN the cosmically ludicrous event that the guy would be denied medical treatment by the prison, he would STILL have lawyers lining up for the fat 50% fee they'd get from suing all those people.

The movie is about as tragic as if they'd all somehow won the lottery and then been struck by lightening the following day.

Requim for a Dream is not depressing, it's laughable.
Sadism as Film Genre
You don't need to pine for nothing but old MGM musicals to be disgusted by the blatant sadism fueling movies like this. That is to say, I fully accept the tragic decline of characters in keeping with a story, nor do I object to miserable endings when the course dictates that. I'm a grown-up. But. There is something nasty going on with films like this, wherein increasingly grotesque displays of characters undergoing horror are presented as 'reality', or, God help us, art. No good storyteller in any medium actually needs to show us, inch by inch, how low his characters are going. As in this dreadful, pretentious movie. Reviews here sensibly bring out the absurd mistakes, like Burstyn's Etc without anaesthesia or the drug dealer's ridiculous giving away of heroin for a little sex, yet seem to miss that these absurdities are there to serve the director's sadistic purpose: to make everyone suffer really badly, and right in front of us. That is not film-making. That is an adolescent's idea of being shocking and gritty, and it's insulting all around. Give me a story that realistically portrays these very dreams falling apart, with some humanity and not as an exercise in visual cruelty, and I'm on board. This? It's prurient garbage under the guise of serious movie-making.
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