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Requiem for a Dream (2000)

April 7, 2010

8/10 Bad Trips

And this, kids, is why you don’t do drugs.

Requiem for a Dream is about four people who get into drugs with the best of intentions and before long find out that they probably should have soaked in some of the knowledge that was being dropped on them in the D.A.R.E. program way back when. Two of them decide to get into the world of pushing drugs and are blown away by the quick turnaround rate that comes with selling dope on the streets of Brooklyn, another is the girlfriend of one of the pushers who jumps on the bandwagon in the hopes that it will allow her to start her own fashion line, and the last is the lonely, widowed mother of one of the pushers who gets hooked on diet pills because she’s convinces she’s gonna be on TV and needs to lose weight fast.

It should go without saying that this here movie isn’t exactly a pick-me-upper. It’s the feel-good equivalent of watching someone drown and it’s the only movie that I’ve really struggled to not turn off midway. Then again, it’s an important movie that deserves to be seen and I’ve willingly seen it on three different occasions.

The Debbie Downer in me, I suppose.

So, Requiem is the sophomore effort by one of my favorite directors, Darren Aronofsky, and, boy, does he know how to make a movie his own. He’s what makes this movie the frenetic headtrip it is, he’s what makes you feel like a junkie who’s just undergone the Ludovico Technique and it’s impossible to miss the lengths he goes to in order to make this movie as painstakingly vivid as he possible could. The editing is a mile-a-minute, the imagery will haunt your ass for the rest of your clean and sober days and you will never listen to this song the same way again.

Adding to that, the sounds in this movie from the slightest detail of a pill bottle opening up to the fantastic soundtrack by Aronofsky regulars Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet will make you shudder. It’s rare that so much attention is paid to the audial aspects of a movie like this and it truly goes a long way. Man, great audio always goes a long way.

Point is, Aronofsky is no joke and if you haven’t seen his stuff yet, you really owe it to yourself. He’s only done four movies anyway.

And as far as the acting is concerned, there’s only one name really worth mentioning: Ellen Burstyn. Jared Leto‘s pretty good as our main pusher (even if that Brooklyn accent is a little suspect), Marlon Wayans should be proud that he has this to balance out his Scary Movie track record even if he’s just alright as our second pusher, and Jennifer Connelly‘s the weak link of the bunch as Leto’s girlfriend (even though she gets put through some unbelievably hairy shit), but Ellen Burstyn got robbed of an Oscar for this one as Leto’s failing mother. Her character is hard as hell to watch but she is absolutely phenomenal and is the most invested member of the cast by a long shot. 

Julia Roberts for Erin Brockovich? My ass.

And bonus points for Shooter McGavin as a motivational speaker.

The main thing really holding this movie back from a higher rating is that it’s just so. damn. depressing. It’s not that it’s a hard movie to buy – ’cause I’m betting that the life of a junkie probably isn’t all that glorious to begin with – it’s just very hard to swallow and there’s real no light at the end of the tunnel outside of the wake-up call it provides to everyone in the audience. The other problem is that the only character I can sympathize with is Ellen Burstyn’s since she’s the only one whose downfall doesn’t take anyone else down with her and who gets hooked to begin with because some idiot doctor tells her to take speed in order to lose weight, only she doesn’t know it’s speed until it’s too late to do anything about it. The other three characters, on the other hand, are in it to win it pretty early on, are fully aware of what’s going on, have more than a couple opportunities to go straight that they all pass up and the most you can do is pity them as a result.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to say that any of them really deserve the fate that befalls them.

Requiem for a Dream is one of those movies that’s worth seeing if only to say that you survived it. This fucker will scare you straight and utterly trounce any fantastical misconceptions you’ve ever had of doing drugs, selling drugs or hearing “drugs”. While there is a time and place for everything – and that place is college – the long and short of it is that drugs really do suck. It just ain’t worth it, folks. Take up knitting or something.

That Aronofsky’s a wise man.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2010 12:17 am

    Such a sad, sad movie. Even though it’s quite a good movie, I don’t know that I would watch it again because it’s such a downer. Ellen Burstyn does give one of the highlight performance of last decade.

  2. April 7, 2010 4:41 am

    Man, you can’t fault Pi or The Wrestler (The Fountain is in my to watch pile) but I had real issues with this film. Vowed never to watch it again after it almost drove a room of my friends to suicide, we kept waiting for the happy bit… waiting and waiting.

    To me it just felt like a really, really harsh governmental ‘educational video’ aimed at putting everyone off of drugs, for life. Relentless.

    • April 7, 2010 11:11 am

      hahah, I remember having a similar experience with my friends when we watched Boys Don’t Cry. Good times!

      And, yeah, relentless is the word.

      And I need to give The Fountain another watch, too. Loved it when I first saw it in theaters even though no one else did, but I’m a huge Aronofsky fan, so that probably swayed things for me. Gorgeous movie to watch regardless of how hard it is to follow.

  3. April 7, 2010 7:36 am

    yeah, its a tough watch and not the normal thing i would watch but it is a good film. a lot of the techniques in it – the quick cut close-ups of all the objects, for instance – have been ripped off by countless movies since. although maybe it ripped it off from something beforehand, i dunno.
    a bit like going to church or the gym, you dont particularly enjoy RFAD but you feel better after its over

    • April 7, 2010 11:09 am

      hahaha, well said, man. agreed that it’s pretty incredible from a technical standpoint. Aronofsky knows his shit.

  4. April 7, 2010 10:10 am

    Talk about a really weird movie. This one touched me in a way that I have not felt in any other way. Not only did you have the weird stuff everyone was doing but the movie’s angel was definitely different than the norm.

  5. Marc permalink
    April 7, 2010 10:53 am

    A movie of this intensity you really only need to see one. That said I’ve seen it just once and even after 10 years, just hearing the main theme makes me cringe. It really is a fantastic movie but like everyone has mentioned, it is a downer.

    After watching this I wanted to bathe myself in fire and peroxide. Also I think if you showed this to kids in Junior High School, we wouldn’t have a drug problem in America by the end of this decade. Nice write-up Aiden!!

    • April 7, 2010 11:12 am

      Completely agree, dude. Scare the SHIT out of those kids!

  6. April 7, 2010 11:50 am

    A movie that will leave you paralyzed just from the crazy amounts of craziness that goes on.

  7. April 7, 2010 12:26 pm

    Favorite movie of all time (with Bonnie and Clyde): perhaps the only time when rtechnique and narrative compliment each other so so so wellitty well well. I haven’t seen this since my son is born, might be time for the gauntlet. The montage at the end is like a terribly gorey haunted house at Halloween that you totally want to leave immediately, but you can’t because you don’t want to be the shmuck that runs for the emergency exit — a reall ball check.

    One thing that cannot go unnoticed (yet you did, Aidan — I’m very disappointed): Matthew Libatique’s ( fantastic cinematography. Fabulous fabulous.

    • April 7, 2010 12:34 pm

      haha, sorry i dropped the ball on that one. you’re right, the cinematography is effing gorgeous in every single scene. love the opening with the TV being dragged around Brooklyn and finally to Coney Island.

      and that last half-hour is the epitome of rough. ass to ass, man. ass to ass…

  8. April 7, 2010 1:57 pm

    Hardest film to watch ever, yet I find I keep recommending it to friends.

    Not all masterworks have to be happy.

  9. April 7, 2010 5:23 pm

    Man, when I saw this poster up on your site I just about jumped up and down in giddy excitement. Like every one says, yeah, it’s sad, but damn its fucking good. I have “song” Lux Atenera on my mp3 player and use it if I ever need a great emotional pysch up. Brilliantly scored for sure.

    Also, I agree with you on Ellen Burstyn getting robbed, that scene where she tells her son about how she is getting old and lonely is heartbreaking.

    Aronosfky has to be one of my favorite directors and this movie is one of the main reasons why.

    • April 8, 2010 8:01 pm

      Yeah, great scene with Burstyn. That scene where she’s on the train at the end in her red dress asking how to get to the TV studio was nuts, too.

      Glad to meet a fellow Aronofsky groupie.

  10. April 9, 2010 11:50 am

    Nice write-up! Darren Aronofsky did a tremendous job with this film. I particularly like the mom in the film, it’s so depressing and dark.

  11. April 11, 2010 1:41 pm

    I totally agree about the song. I had heard it countless times before but once I saw it it’s hard for me to even listen to it again.

    Yes, it’s a very depressing and bleak film, but that’s why I love it so much. I guess I’m more of a tragedy man than anything else.

    Glad you liked it, this is in my top 3 of all time because of how powerful and astounding it is.

  12. May 20, 2010 11:55 pm

    I don’t mind watching really depressing movies as long as they are purposeful and well-done. And “Requiem for a Dream” was both. Never can I recall squirming and screaming as much during a movie. The last cycle is absolutely heartbreaking.

    My favorite track from the soundtrack is “Meltdown.” It sends the most chills up my spine.

    • May 21, 2010 8:42 am

      I should really listen to this whole soundtrack. Kronos Quartet are out of sight, almost unfortunate that every time I hear that song now I think “Ass to ass!”

      Good times.

  13. Branden permalink
    May 24, 2010 6:49 pm

    I still think that this was a great movie. I enjoy it. I can’t watch it everyday. Maybe every couple of years would be good for me.


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