341 of 358 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
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...
132 of 143 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2004
Addiction-what it is, what is does, who it affects, how it progresses, and how it feels is very hard conceive-especially for somebody who has never suffered from an addiction or been close to someone who has. Requiem for a Dream is not a documentory or historicaly acurate depiction of drug use. What it is, is a graphic, shocking, disturbing, and most of all-VERY REAL-representation of addiction, through the eyes of an addict. I know this because I used drugs and alcohol for more than 20 years, in the end I nearly completly destroyed myself and I caused great pain and undue suffering to my family with my addiction to cocaine . I am not what the general population perceives as a drug addict. I live in a small town in the upper Midwest. I have a wife and two children and make about $30,000/yr. Few knew of my use. I was selling drugs to support my own habit, and yet ended up more than $20,000 in debt from just credit cards. I know what a "road to nowhere," irrational, out-of-control, empty and sickening feeling addiction is. Requiem for a Dream portrays this feeling in a way words could not begin to decribe. I have been clean and sober for seven years, but after I viewed Requiem, I emotionally broke down as memories came flooding back. This is not a movie for entertainment. If you want to know what an addiction is like (especially to highly addictive drugs like heroin, cocaine, or amphetamine)see this movie. If you think "that will never happen to me," watch this movie again and see how you will give up ANYTHING and EVERYTHING as your whole life revolves around ONE thing-to obtain that chemical and use it. This movie is so good, I will never watch it again.
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
This disturbing film, creatively directed by Darren Aronofsky of "Pi" fame is about drug addition. For Ellen Burstyn, cast in the role of Sarah Goldfarb, a lonely Brooklyn housewife who is trying to lose weight to appear on a TV show, the drug of choice is diet pills. For her son, played by Jared Leto; his girlfriend, played by Jennifer Connely; and his pal, played by Marlon Wayans, the drug is heroin. Based on the novel by Hubert Selby, Jr., who also wrote the screenplay, the setting is a run-down and sad Brooklyn neighborhood near the beach, where buildings are old, people are poor and the American dream is a far off taunting illusion. The time period is unclear because the TV set, which is the center of Sarah Goldfarb's life, is of 1950s vintage; and yet the characters all use cell phones. But these details really don't matter much. There are enough other fantasy elements in this film to hurl it into the age that created music videos.
Using creative film techniques, the director has managed to bring the audience right into the mental states of the addicts. There are extreme close-ups, slow-motion and fast-motion sequences and split screen effects. We go on the fantasy trip with the characters and then we crash with the reality. We watch the effects on them as their personalities change as well as their physical appearances. The result is chilling. The script calls for outstanding acting jobs and Ellen Burstyn's work is perhaps the finest of her long career. The other actors also shine in these very challenging performances. Jared Leto is more than just a handsome young actor; Jennifer Connely, who is almost too pretty for her harrowing role, is excellent; and Marlon Wayans, who we usually see in comedies, proves here that he handle a serious part. This is not a film for the squeamish. It is deeply disturbing and sad. But the discomfort is worth it for those who are willing to explore this underbelly of a perverse American dream. Recommended.
72 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
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.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2003
I was flipping through the channels the other night, when I happened upon this movie. Within a second, I was hooked until the bitter end, just like the group of addicts this film is focused on. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. Just like a drug, it was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. I CANNOT believe I haven't seen this movie until now. This is one of the few movies that left me stunned, deeply affected, and just plain disturbed afterwards (the only other movie to do that was "Bully"). Shock-value aside, this movie was simply great, multidimensional filmmaking - visually, musically, and acting-wise. It's one of the best films I've ever seen.
In classical music, a requiem is a Mass for the dead. In the movie, we watch aspirations and relationships wither away when the characters are consumed by addiction. Overweight TV-addict Sara Goldfarb (portrayed amazingly by Ellen Burstyn) turns to speed for weight-loss when she believes she is chosen as a TV-show contestant. Her son Harry (Jared Leto) is a heroin addict, along with his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) and his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). Harry and Marion dream of opening a store, and Tyrone wants to prove to the memory of his mother that he can be successful, so they get involved in drug dealing for some fast cash. Unfortunately, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the rest of a movie is a frightening trip down that path. When it all crashes in the end, all four characters are left rotting in their own personal hell, alone and tormented by their inner demons.
Ellen Burstyn should've won the Academy Award over Julia Roberts. The deterioration Sara goes through is intense. By the last part of the movie, she's a loony speed junkie, barely recognizable from the beginning of the movie. Physically and emotionally, her change is a total 180°. Jared Leto is wonderful as well. His eyes alone express huge amounts of emotion. You can really feel the love he has for his girlfriend, and the concern he has for his mother. Marlon Wayans surprised me by not hamming it up in his usual comedic way. I almost wasn't sure if that was him at first, since he usually doesn't tackle such dramatic roles. He handled himself splendidly... it's nice to see he's got serious acting chops. He came off as very natural. Jennifer Connelly was amazing. As her character starts to self-degrade, you can totally feel what she's going through, especially when she hits rock bottom.
Let's talk about the directing now. Darren Aronofsky, the director, is a genius. I have never seen a film utilize both visual and audio techniques to narrate a story as well as this movie did. Visually, the movie plays like a David Fincher flick on acid. Rapid cuts and edits, fisheye lenses, split screens, slow-mo and high-speed shots, swirling cameras... a whole array of MTV-like editing techniques are used. But, it never seems gratuitous, as if it were done just for the sake of looking cool and artsy. These techniques help enhance the storyline, making you feel like you're really in the characters' shoes. I felt like I was on drugs just watching this movie, experiencing both the highs and the lows (especially in the truly frightening final sequence). Moments of willpower in the film are shot very effectively as well; if you've ever been on a diet, you'll totally relate to the clock-watching, the beckoning fridge, and the quickly disappearing food. One technique I really loved was whenever a character used their addiction (whether it be smack, TV, coffee, coke, etc.), the camera would zoom-in up close and show syringes shooting, pupils dilating, lighters sparking, spoons bubbling, pill bottles popping open... all in rapid succession with sound effects going "pop, bubble, crackle, slurp, snap, suck!" This technique is repeated over and over, to give you a sense of the habitual nature of addiction. I can't even smoke a joint anymore without close-up images of lips inhaling and smoke swirling flashing through my brain.
The beautiful musical score plays an integral role in the storytelling as well, aside from its obvious role as a requiem. Not since "Pink Floyd's The Wall" have I seen the music exactly match what you're witnessing visually, until now. The strings express such haunting sadness in the main overture, and frantic, Psycho-like melodies play as terrorizing images flash onscreen. The score is played by a string quartet, which can represent the four main characters. It is also divided up into three, very symbolic movements, just like the movie is: Summer, Fall, and Winter.
I highly recommend you see this movie, especially if you like dark films like me. I just advise you watch it in a sober state, unless you want to get freaked out of your mind really badly. This movie will affect you by itself. I'm scared of even just thinking about heroin right now.
36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2001
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.
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.
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2001
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.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2000
Absolutely an amazing film. Being very concerened about a couple of friends of mine who have issues kind of like the characters in the film, I took them to see this. It REALLY gave them a big wake up call. First class acting, camerawork, editing, and music. Groundbreaking film work. This film should be shown to every highschool kid. It is extremely unfortunate that the MPAA couldn't understand the reality of the film and how important this film is, by giving it an NC 17 rating. Much better than the movie that wins Best Picture in the year 2000.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2003
If you have seen Pi, you'll love this one. (I find both movies to be groundbreaking, almost of a class at par with Stanley Kubrick of yore). Aronofsky, a meticulous director, uses some very original techniques to set the tone and convey the themes within this sometimes dark but always beautiful, complex depiction of the nature of addiction.
Through use of split screens, revolving cameras, extreme close-up, distorted angles, blasting sound, and repetitive symbols, all in an effort to convey the actual experience of the substance-user under the influence. The film is a visceral experience, unrelenting in its portrayal of each character's descent into their own personal abyss.
The film focuses on three main characters: a Jewish mother from Brooklyn, Sara Goldfarb, played by Ellen Burstyn, the son, Harry, played by Jared Leto, and the girlfriend, Marion, played by Jennifer Connelly. Mom is addicted first to television, and as a result of a proposed appearance on her favorite show, decides to lose weight with the aid of diet drugs, prescribed by an unethical physician. Harry and Marion are fond of heroin, but they will settle for something amphetamine in a pinch. All three start out as casual users, but as they persist with their addictions, each character's environment deteriorates and they all sink deeper into unreality. Aronofsky portrays this by having the characters interact with each other in a relatively normal way at first, focusing on the familial relationship between mother and son, and the romantic one between Harry and Marion.
The early scenes are brightly lit and pleasant to watch, with many shots of the gorgeous Leto and Connelly lying head-to-head, looking remarkably alike, awash in drugs and love. Even the screen-wide use of the symbols and sounds of drug use seem exhilarating and exciting at first, and it is not until the viewer is bombarded with them relentlessly that they become uncomfortable to watch and hear. Aronofsky splits the film into three parts, subtitled Summer, Fall, and Winter. The seasons change along with the characters, and as time progresses, the characters split from each other, each advancing more deeply into their own addiction and despair. Their individual descents parallel each other, which Aronofsky represents by quick cutting from one character's current predicament to the others, all the scenes infused with garish colors, murky lighting, and disquieting music. At one point Aronofsky unites the characters by showing the visual similarities between the bloodshot, bruised, and terrified eyes of the mother, the heavily made-up, smeared and bleary eyes of Marion, and the infected, bloody and blackened wound that Harry grows on his inner arm.
The performances in this film are top-notch, especially from Ellen Burstyn, as a perfectly actualized suburban junkie. Her character is really the sympathetic one, caught not in a desire to get high, but just to be a little more attractive -- a trait so typical of our media-fed society. Also notable in his role is Marlon Wayans, playing against type in a non-comedic role as Harry's drug buddy.
In a conventional drug film, the addict usually dies, as a morality play, or to accomplish some finality for the storyline. Aronofsky refuses to go for the easy way out. The last twenty minutes of this film possess some of the most harrowing footage you will ever see, and there is no respite for the viewer or the characters.
A definite 5-star and one for your collection!
404 of 508 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2001
warning amazon costumer!! do not buy this dvd. it is an edited, r-rated version of the original film, which is one of the gratest movies of 2000. the original cut features frequent drug use and a really creepy sex scene that freaked the mpaa out! if you are easily offended, you shouldn't be buying this movie anyway. if you liked the movie, or you didn't watch it but are in search of something totally new and original, buy the unrated version. this one is not good.