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 here...wow. 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."
Stapling the Pieces of My Heart Back Together
WrathfulGrape | New York, NY United States | 07/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was a movie that I have heard so much about that I thought, "oh no...overkill." I am after all, a very bitter grape with a cynical eye towards marketing. But to treat myself for my birthday, I ordered this and 4 other DVD's (you will be hearing reviews of those too...but you gotta find 'em!). And tonight, with another grape-y friend of mine, I watched it.Let me just say, there will be SPOILERS so please read at your own discretion.The first time you see those quick cuts of the syringe filling, the eyes dilating, the cotton balls, and the sighs of pleasure in the background, it's inevitable...you think "wow! COOL!"But as the movie progresses and these 4 characters become less and less human, it ain't so cool no more. You see that montage of cuts over and over again and each time you see it, it means more doom. You start thinking "oh please, Harry..please don't do that..please..." It becomes ingrained in your head that this is no longer fun..it's a habit...it's an addiction..and the fact that it is shot so magnetically, you can't turn your head away no matter how much you start hating it. Much like drug addiction itself.Ellen Burstyn, in that scene with Jared Leto in her apartment...when she talks about that red dress and Seymour and her hopes and dreams for Harry...I don't think you can get any more heartbreaking than that...her pathetic nature, her descent into madness, it's all up there and you can't stop watching. This is a woman on the cusp and you have no doubt in your mind she's going to go over...what an incredible performance in this scene...Marion's prostitution and transformation into a full-blown junkie...you love her so much, and you hate her too for doing this to herself. Her degradation at the end was so un-sexual and I have no clue as to why the MPAA made such a big deal out of it...but what it was, and this is why I think they censored it and slapped it with an NC-17...was that it was NOT senseless....this scene is in there to show her humiliation, not her pleasure. And that this will surely not be the last time she does this. And sex that isn't mindless is not palatable to us sheep. Thus, the NC-17. What a pity we are treated like morons.Marlon Wayans, what a surprise...'nuff said...and Jared Leto...the center of the film....never thought he had it in him. When he turns his head away and suggests that Marion goes on the date (trick?) with Arnold for money...my heart broke.Add this to the visual style of the movie, the music, the sound...believe me folks...screw the MPAA and what they think is ok to see and not ok to see...this is an IMPORTANT film...on a critical level, you will never see performances stronger than these in any movie released in the last 2 years. On a social level...once you see this...once you see these characters (and that ARM!) go from healthy and loving to wisps of souls, you will never ever consider doing drugs...and if you already do, you will reconsider. Unless you are Harry, Marion, Tyrone, or Sara...chracters who can never turn back.The moral?There is a point where salvation will never find you. So don't even start walking in that direction.Excuse me now, kiddies. I have to find my Swingline and scrape my heart off the floor."