Sara Goldfarb is being harassed, literally, by her refrigerator in
writer and director Darren Aronofsky's REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. Aronofsky,
who rocketed to fame with his first indie film, PI, is back with a
roller coaster ride about drug addition. It is an audacious film that
will certainly win an Academy Award nomination for Ellen Burstyn, who
plays Sara. And if there were any justice in the world, it would win
one for Aronofsky as well. This movie, however, is the complete
antithesis of a Hollywood production and so has little chance of being
recognized with Best Picture or Best Director nominations.
First and foremost, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM is an assault on our senses.
Easily the most visually audacious movie of the year, its camerawork
(Matthew Libatique) and editing (Jay Rabinowitz) are astounding.
Approximating the effects of drugs on the brain, sometimes the film
speeds up like a bullet train, and other times the action slows to a
crawl. Especially effective are the close-up images of everything from
drug preparation to pupil dilation to paper airplanes.
The cornucopia of images flow over our systems like a drug rush. We
aren't merely witnessing the cataclysmic effects of drug addiction; we
are experiencing them up close and personal. The director makes just
the right choice in minimizing the surrealistic scenes in favor of
speeding up the realistic ones.
>From the first frame, the director comes out swinging. The film doesn't
really start, per se. Instead, we are thrown into a story that has been
going on for a while. We feel much like viewers who have just turned on
in the middle of a television series.
When we meet the angelic-looking Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto), who loves
his Ma, Sara, dearly and adores his girlfriend, Marion Silver (Jennifer
Connelly), he is busy stealing his Ma's television. After pawning it,
he buys drugs to get high with his friend, Tyrone C. Love (Marlon
Wayans). His mother just heads down to the pawn dealer to buy it back
again in a ritual that seems to have been going on since the dawn of
time. Even if Burstyn's acting is the best of the bunch, all of the
leads deliver probably the best performances of their careers.
Sad and lonely Sara has her own addiction, television, especially a
motivational show starring Tappy Tibbons (Christopher McDonald). Its
big rules on its road to nirvana include no red meat and no refined
sugar. One day she is invited to come on the show sometime in the
indefinite future. This causes Sara to move up the addiction chain. In
order to get into her old red dress for the show, she goes to a diet
doctor. ("How are you, Mrs. Goldfarb," the nurse asks perfunctorily, as
Sara steps onto the scales. "Enormous," she replies in embarrassment.)
The doctor prescribes salvation in the form of a heavy regiment of diet
drugs. Although losing weight initially makes her popular among the
little old Jewish ladies that live in her building and wile away their
days trying to soak up the sun, eventually it destroys her body and her
Meanwhile Harry, Tyrone and Marion are busy devising a series of
get-rich-quick schemes involving selling drugs. Harry brags to his Ma
that he is working for "sort of a distributor for a big importer." So
hyper with diet pill uppers that she looks in danger of exploding, she
doesn't ask for any details. Their plans, however, are thwarted by
their overriding need to consume what they are supposed to be selling.
This puts them down a path of destruction that leaves them doing
absolutely anything to get drugs to feed their habits. For Marion, the
bottom of the pit occurs when she puts on a two woman sex show for a
room filled with suits.
As the four of them descend into their own hells, it is hard to watch
but impossible to look away. Caring deeply about each of the
characters, we would no more turn away from them than we would a loved
one. When the ending credits come, your audience will probably be like
mine. No one moved or breathed. We were all frozen in our seats.
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM runs 1:42. It is not rated but would be NC-17 for
drug usage, graphic images, nudity, sex and language and would be
acceptable for college students and older.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes