Requiem For A Dream

Review Date:
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Darren Aronofsky & Hubert Selby Jr.
Producers: Eric Watson and Palmer West
Ellen Burstyn as Sara Goldfarb
Jared Leto as Harry Goldfarb
Jennifer Connolly as Marion Silver
Marlon Wayans as Tyrone C. Love
A deep, dark look at the conjoined lives of several people whose search for love, happiness and their seemingly unattainable dreams, ultimately gets caught up under the snag of addiction.
A harrowing tale about the extreme damage associated with addiction and the pursuit of happiness, this film should be applauded for taking such a familiar subject matter and slapping it around with innovative visuals, a haunting score, undeniably courageous performances from all of its leads and a consistently gripping narrative. And despite obvious comparisons to both A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and TRAINSPOTTING, it’s obvious that Aronofsky has managed to create a cult classic of his own here. Reaching deep down into his arsenal of visual gadgeteries, the director makes use of every style utilized by Scorsese, Tarantino, Fincher and Gilliam, and one-ups them all with a visual melange of inspirational creations of his own. This is one movie that you will never be able to forget. It sticks in your mind, no matter what your impression of the final product. In the end, it’s about lost, disconnected people. Lonely, beyond belief, searching for an answer within a quick fix solution, a solution, which in itself, can only take them so far. And as their simple dreams get further out of reach, and their addictions to external substances takes over, the film gathers a palpable sense of impending doom, as each character respectively spirals down a hellish experience of their own. All of this leads to one of the most intense denouements that I have seen on screen in years.

The film is also optimized to the nth degree in sound and visuals, as every move, scene, thought and circumstance is attached to an accompanying symbolic effect or another, used to reinforce the chaos of each situation, and to a certain extent, their repetitive and continuous nature. Think addiction. This movie is also filled with unforgettable imagery and a powerful score, which helps beat the film’s cataclysmic sentiment right into your brain. I still cannot shake that infectiously morbid sound. The film is obviously sad and very depressing in a lot of ways, but still manages to undoubtedly punch home the obvious anti-drug and anti-addiction message underlying it all. To me, the film also ventured to comment on some of the most obvious effects of alienation and anti-socialization in our society. Everybody wants to be loved, but when you can not attain that love, what do you do? Of course, all the camera tricks and music in the world could never fool an audience unless the film itself stood on a solid script packed with believable characters, and even more importantly, actors who allow you to buy into their parts. This film managed to give us four very strong performances from its leads, each of whom seems to have taken great care in their interpretation.

Marlon Wayans has you completely forgetting about his TV antics after the first five minutes of this movie, with a true dramatic performance deep in symbolism and high on effectiveness. A guy trying to do good, looking for that lost love from his mom, but just falling short every time. Leto also surprised me as the overly industrious guy caught between the love for his mother and his devotion to his girlfriend. Fullfilling the male void in both of their lives, Leto is simply not able to satisfy their lonely patterns, and subsequently succumbs to one of the most horrific separations of them all. But for me, it was the women who held the even stronger cards in this flick. Jennifer Connelly, with the performance of her career, manages to look absolutely beautiful in one scene, and absolutely horrific in the next. Her character’s transition from uppity rich girl to down-and-out junkie is remarkably portrayed, as Jennifer bares all for the role and her character’s ultimate degradation. A case can definitely be made for each of these wonderful actors to receive a nomination of some sort by the end of the year, but Ellen Burstyn is undoubtedly already seated at the Oscar events of year next. A complete transformation of both physical and mental state, Burstyn takes us through one of the loneliest characters to be showcased on film, with an evocatory performance which lends itself to much pause for reflection. Ultimately, it is the inability to reach their dreams and their love that drives each of these characters into a nightmare of their own.

It goes without saying, that this film is not for everyone. It is sad, depressing, confusing at times and extremely experimental in a lot of ways. In other words, if you’re looking for a 1-2-3 movie, this ain’t for you. This movie is for deep thinkers. It’s also for those who themselves suffer from an addiction of some sort. And yes, ultimately, it is for anyone who has ever felt let down by a dream which they could not grasp, a love which they simply could not attain, or a connection which they just could not seem to make. The characters in this film make the mistake that many of us do when we try to find the solution of our malaise on the outside of ourselves. Almost every time, the solution lies within, but many of us are just afraid to face up to that lonely place.

PS: I still can’t get Ellen Burstyn’s line of “I’m gonna be on television” out of my head.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian