Genres: Drama
Employing shock techniques and sound design in a relentless sensory assault, Requiem for a Dream is about nothing less than the systematic destruction of hope. Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., and adapted by Selby a...  more »


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Movie Reviews

Heartbreaking, brilliant, unforgettable
Serdar S. Yegulalp | Huntington, NY United States | 01/17/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Hubert Selby Jr.'s elegiac and mesmerizing novel about four addicts of different varieties appeared in 1978 and ranked alongside Selby's "Last Exit to Brooklyn" (also made into a superior film) as one of his best books. Darren ("Pi") Aronofsky was himself a Selby fan and eventually persuaded the Thousand Arts production company to finance his $5M film of the novel.The resulting film is as horrific and fascinating as anything ever put on a screen. The plot isn't complicated: Junkie Harry (a nearly unrecognizeable Jared Leto) takes to pawning his mother's TV set for heroin. His buddy Tyrone (Marlon Wayans, in a performance that makes his turn in "Scary Movie" and other junk look like total red herrings) hatches a plan with him to score for a pound of pure and put them on the fast track to riches. Harry's girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) has vague plans of opening a boutique with her share of the gains. And Harry's mother (a truly amazing Ellen Burstyn) is obsessed with appearing on her favorite TV show.Movies like this are not about plotting but emotion. We know there is no happy ending possible here; what matters is not what happens but how and to what extent. The final 20 minutes -- which have been written about endlessly elsewhere -- are a masterpiece of Soviet-style intercutting and gradually mounting, excruciating tension that does not even end with the release of death, but with the promise of unending, ongoing pain.This isn't a pretty movie. This isn't a movie for your mother (well, I guess that depends on the family), or a movie for the whole family. This is a movie about despair and destroyed dreams. In short, this is a movie about something -- and it tells its story with such fierce style and power that it almost makes issues of taste or subject matter irrelevant. You may not like the film -- and there are many who don't -- but you can't deny its power, or the skill involved in making it."
You may try to forget this film. "Try" is the key word here.
Kitten With a Whip | The Hellmouth | 04/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I was tempted to title my summary "Drugs are bad, mm'kay?" because this movie was so sad I was desperate to inject a little humor. Man, what a sad, scary, excellent, grim, disturbing, well-made movie. The more I read about this movie and learned about it, the more fascinating it seemed. I also am one of those people who, when they hear a movie is extremely shocking and disturbing, get a burning urge to see it as fast as I can to see if it shocks me (especially if it's unrated or NC-17), since I am pretty jaded. So, I eagerly anticipated seeing it. The plot concerns four addicts. Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly play a young loving couple, Harry and Marion, who dabble in heroin and plan to make a big sale along with their friend Tyrone (Shawn Wayans) so they can be set for life and Marion can open up her own (legal) business. Unfortunately, their recreational drug use turns into day-to-day addiction, and things start to get ugly. REAL ugly. A couple shots even kind of give a whole new definition of the word 'ugly'. Ellen Burstyn plays Harry's mother Sarah, a lonely widow who wants to lose weight to fit into a red dress so she can appear on her favorite TV show. She starts out by being addicted to TV and candy, but has the bad luck to go to a doctor who gives her an RX for 'diet pills', that turn out to actually be the old-fashioned kind they gave to women in the 50s- speed. I found her story thread the most memorable and heartbreaking. Sarah takes pills and starts losing weight, as well as suddenly becoming very energetic and chatty. Like any addictive drug, her happy blue pills stop working after prolonged use so she ups her dose more...and more...and things slowly start getting very weird and scary. In one of the best scenes midway through the film (one of the few that had a tiny bit of comic relief) Harry visits her --the only visit he makes during the movie where he doesn't openly steal her TV to pawn for dope money. He is briefly riding high (in more ways than one) and tells her he bought her a big screen TV-he wanted to do something nice for her and figured out that "TV is her fix". He looks like he's getting a bad feeling when she's babbling happily about how she has a reason to get up in the morning, and then he hears her grinding her teeth, and figures it out. This is the first time in the movie you see real fear in his eyes. Sarah soon starts having very scary strung-out hallucinations-starting out with subtle things like time woozily slowing down and speeding back up, and when her refrigerator suddenly starts moving on its own, the real nightmare begins. An aggressive fridge with a mind of its own sounds Monty Python-esque when you first hear about it, but trust me, you won't be laughing by the end of the movie. One review I read said that the movie not only pulls the rug out from under you, it drags you and the rug down a long flight of stairs into a very dark basement. Another reviewer compared the experience of watching the film to a drug, and that's not too far off the mark either. Whenever a character gets high, there's a slam-bang fast cut montage of the same images over and over; a sigh, a pupil dilating, cells changing color. The scenes where Sarah hallucinates are pretty close to the real thing. The description I probably agree with most came from Darren Aronofsky himself-he compared the film to a jump from a plane without a parachute, and the movie ends three minutes after you hit the ground. The last few minutes that show the gruesome, depressing, worst-case-scenario fates of all 4 characters are just as intense, hard to watch, and nightmarish as I heard they were. My only complaints would be that I wish it were longer, with more time for character development. I would have liked more scenes of what these people and their lives were like before they were addicts, as well as their relationships with each other. The cast is great- Wayans shows that he has the most range and talent of the Wayans bros- I laughed so hard at him in Don't Be A Menace that I ended up buying it, but I would have liked to see more of his character. I never liked Leto much before, but he is excellent and also almost unrecognizable (he said he dropped 1/5 of his weight for the role and boy does it show). Connelly I disliked so much before that I would actively avoid seeing movies she was in, but I was very impressed and convinced that she can act. Burstyn gives the performance of a lifetime- not only convincing, but she was dedicated enough to let the filmmakers make her look like absolute and total hell, which many actresses over 50 would probably not be brave enough to do. Not recommended if you're easily shocked, squeamish, or upset. If you only like movies that take you to a happy place, stay far away. Everyone who left the movie theater looked like they had just been hit over the head with a very large board. And we were all people who knew what we were getting into. Recommended for those who want to see a movie that will completely overtake you and involve you emotionally. In addition, this film should be required viewing for everyone in the fashion industry that supported and glorified that whole hideous 'heroin chic' trend. Also a good movie if you are having some problems in your life and want to put them in perspective VERY fast. And even though I keep my weight down the old-fashioned way, I'll probably never look at my fridge quite the same way again..."
A very heavy, important film
Matt Hamer | Burlington, Ontario Canada | 05/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Words can hardly describe the experience of watching this powerful film. It's about different forms of addiction, and it pulls no punches in its depiction of the inevitable downward spiral of its four main characters. Not only should you see it for the message, but for its cinematic inventivness. Visually, I've never seen anything like it. The cinematography, sound, editing, music and visual FX are top-notch and will blow your mind. The acting honors here go to Ellen Burstyn, who gives an incredible performance as the poor, naiive Sarah Goldfarb. Watching her deterioration (both mentally and physically) is heart-wrenching. Burstyn gets great support from the rest of the cast as well, particularly Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly. Also, those familiar with Marlon Wayans' comedy roles will be very surprised with his subtle, convincing portrayal of enterprising heroin addict Tyrone. Director Darren Aronofsky has created one of the best films of the new century; I can't wait to see what he does next. The last 20 minutes of this wonderful, haunting film will leave you breathless. A must-see."
A Beautiful Nightmare
Hubert Vigilla | 02/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Adapted from the novel by Hubert Selby Jr. (who co-wrote the screenplay), Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream" is a descent into utter despair, a journey through the unfulfilled dreams of four characters whose lives are driven by drugs. It is a haunting, heartbreaking look at the dark side of addictions and is my personal pick for the best film of 2000. The story centers around Harry (Jared Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly), his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans), and his mother Sara (Ellen Burstyn), all of whose lives are driven by addictions: Harry and Tyrone are junkies, Marion is a coke addict, and Sara, persuaded to loose weight for a possible TV appearance, is hooked on diet pills. The film begins by showing each of these characters' dreams nearing fulfillment. Just when it seems that happiness is attainable, all of the characters' lives spiral out of control until they hit rock bottom. All of the performances are stellar, particularly Wayans and Burstyn. Wayans took me completely by suprise showing that he can actually act and act well. Yet it is Burstyn who stands miles above the rest. Her portrayal of the lonely, pathetic yet well-meaning Sara is incredible. It was Sara whom I felt most sorry for of this entire tragic quartet. Burstyn deserves an award for this role (and that is fact, not opinion). Aronofsky's direction makes this film a visceral, kinetic experience. His use of split-screens, fast cuts, and the infamous snorri-cam give this film an intense, addictive feel. The film's 20-minute-montage-from-hell finale is a blistering, disturbing combination of Aronofsky's quick paced flash coupled with the impeccably agonizing performances by the cast. All of this is punctuated by the Clint Mansell score performed by The Kronos Quartet, music which is fittingly somber and dirge-like. "Requiem for a Dream" is powerful cinema that can truly be called a work of art, a haunting nightmare that can rightfully be called beautiful."