Requiem for a Dream
Release date: October 27, 2000
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Novel by: Hubert Selby Jr.
Screenplay by: Darren Aronosky, Hubert Selby Jr.
Cast: Jared Leto, Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans
After quite some time, I managed to revisit Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream. I used to love it a lot back then and watching how the film tackled drugs and addiction through its characters was one of the big reasons why I held it as one of my favorite films from the past decade (and it’s still holding very strong for me).
Based on the novel of the same name by Hubert Selby Jr. — who also co-wrote the screenplay with Aronofsky — Requiem for a Dream follows the Goldfarbs, Harry (Leto) and his mother Sara (Burstyn), whose lives are prety much routinary: Harry’s a cokehead and heroin junkie who does anything he can to get cash — including stealing from his mom — in order to fuel his habits alongside his best friend Tyrone (Wayans) and his girlfriend Marion (Connelly) while Sara hangs around with her friendly neighbors and sits at home every day and watches tv infomercials, dreaming that she would appear on the small screen one day.
Their routinary lives gets changed when the opportunity to improve their current status appears. In Harry’s case, it’s the opportunity of making cash by cutting and selling coke on the streets. For Sara, a surprise phone call announcing that she’s invited to participate in a game show drives her to lose weight in order to fit in that red dress she wore for one of the produest moments of her life: Harry’s graduation.
As you would expect, things go well at first for everyone involved. However the real delight of watching Requiem for a Dream is witnessing the downfall of every single character (along with the addiction theme) and Aronofsky is very ruthless on that aspect. From start to finish, it’s nothing but a brutal ride to hell for everyone involved and the film’s stylish direction and editing in cinematography and sounds provides detailed close-ups on drug consumption and many intense haunting moments that would easily linger in your mind, especially the ones involving Sara Goldfarb and her refrigerator.
Speaking of Sara, Ellen Burstyn stole the show here. While Harry and his friends were destined to end up in a very bad place eventually — especially Harry — Sara had a normal uncomplicated life (except for an non-violent unhealthy relationship with Harry) and nothing drove her to change her ways until the phone rang. Since then, the method she used for losing weight [see: diet pills] at first proved very effective until the side effects got worse and thanks to some dosing issues, she ended up shattering her hopes and life. Burstyn’s performance is phenomenal and it’s frieghtening (in a great way) to see her descent into addiction as time passes by.
The rest of the cast didn’t reach Burstyn’s performance level, but they still fared greatly at handling their own characters. Jared Leto’s Harry had a great build-up towards his downfall and one of his best scenes was the conversation scene with his mom that showed how much he cared for her in spite of Harry’s own fucked up life and unlikeability. Jennifer Connelly was great as the rebellious suburban girl and had great chemistry with Leto. On the other hand, Marlon Wayans as Tyrone is a surprise here considering his previous (and current, if you haven’t seen Requiem yet) films and worked well under Aronofsky’s direction and proved to be more than just a comedy guy.
As near-perfect as I think Requiem for a Dream is, my latest rewatch spotted one noticeable flaw: the flawed characterization of medics, especially near the end of the film. Granted that the novel was written on 1978, but the film is set around the late 90’s or 2000 and back then the flawed medics would have probably worked. However, it doesn’t work that well around the film’s timeline. Despite this flaw, it doesn’t matter much since the masterful finale — enhanced strongly by Clint Mansell’s soundtrack — is very hard-hitting thanks to its ongoing crescendo and powerful climax in terms of everyone falling apart.