Requiem for a Dream
Requiem for a Dream is the long awaited sophomore effort by Darron Aronofsky. The director first drew attention with the edgy low-budget finesses of Pi. This time around, Aronofsky translates a ponderously titled novel by Hubert Selby Jr. into a slick and harrowing film about the American appetite for success. Requiem traces the downward descent of four Brooklyn junkies, repositioning Pi's cabalistic obsessiveness onto a wider framework of addiction and socially manufactured desires. Aronofsky's heroin-chic cinematography and nimble editing don't prevent the film from being a bleak kick in the stomach, but they make that kick as lush and watchable as possible.
Jared Leto leads the movie as Harry Goldfarb, a low-level smack addict who goes home only to pinch Mom's (Ellen Burstyn) television for drug money. Harry runs with Tyrone C. Love (Marlon Wayans) and vague girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly). Mom prefers diet pills, while the others are hooked on harder stuff. The general drift goes from bad to worse. Druggy highs speed by with effective ephemerality after being entered via scenes of ritualized self-medication, aestheticized but not endorsed.
The mom and son form a compelling pair, but the direction stands out in Wayans' and Connelly's characters. Both outdo their recent work and benefit from Aronofsky's gravity.
Heavy as it is, Requiem for a Dream is a pleasure to watch. Enough of the actors' talent is manifested to make emotional contact with the audience. The film does not just depict medicated shells roaming around Brighton Beach, but presents a powerful slice of American fantasies and the real-life costs inflicted by voracious dreams.