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Darren Aronofsky


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Ellen Burstyn as Sara Goldfarb
Jared Leto as Harry Goldfarb
Jennifer Connelly as Marion Silver
Marlon Wayans as Tyrone C. Love
Christopher McDonald as Tappy Tibbons
Janet Sarno as Mrs. Pearlman
Suzanne Shepherd as Mrs. Scarlini
Joanne Gordon as Mrs. Ovadia
Charlotte Aronofsky as Mrs. Miles
Mark Margolis as Mr. Rabinowitz
Michael Kaycheck as Donut Cop (as Mike Kaycheck)
Jack O'Connell as Corn Dog Stand Boss
Requiem for a Dream Storyline: Drugs. They consume mind, body and soul. Once you're hooked, you're hooked. Four lives. Four addicts. Four failures. Despite their aspirations of greatness, they succumb to their addictions. Watching the addicts spiral out of control, we bear witness to the dirtiest, ugliest portions of the underworld addicts reside in. It is shocking and eye-opening but demands to be seen by both addicts and non-addicts alike.
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Absolutely Heartbreaking
I had been looking forward to Aronofsky's follow-up to his critically acclaimed art-house film, Pi, of a few years back and when it did finally open in 1 theatre in Toronto, I gathered a bunch of friends to go down and see it. Some have never even heard of Pi before. For others, this would be their first Independent film experience. However, coming out of the movie, we all agreed that it was one of most powerful piece of contemporary cinema that anyone has seen.

"Requiem for a Dream" tells the story of 4 people, connected either through blood or some kind of personal relationship, whether it be family, girlfriend, or business partner. Although the characters lived far from what you and I would consider to be normal lifestyles, they shared something in common with each and every member of the audience; hopes, aspirations, dreams. Sara Goldfarb (played so wonderfully by Ellen Burstyn) dreams of one day being on a TV show, and one day, gets her chance. She fantasizes about how she could wear her favourite red dress, that she wore to her sun's graduation, on television. However, upon trying to wear the red dress, Sara discovers that she has gained some weight over the years and tries desperately to lose her weight, eventually resorting to medication. All of the characters have drugs (the bad kind) affect their lives, which eventually take over their lives. The movie documents how for each of the 4 people are effected and eroded by drugs.

The look of the film is extremely stylized, but justifiably so. Aronofsky uses surreal imagery as a vehicle for realism, something that really works when done well, and done well it was. By using a combination of slow and fast motion shots, extreme close-ups and more edits than you can shake a stick at, Aronofsky successfully brings the audience into the world and mind of someone with a drug problem. The audience visually experiences first-hand what it is like to be 'scared' or 'high' - all this in 3rd person; all this in the comfort of the theatre chair.

Of course, all of this effort would be in vain if it didn't mean anything at the end. The film leads the audience down a spiral of addiction until the grand finale, which features a montage of graphically intense scenes and images with more edits per second than any film. The pacing at the end, when compared to earlier parts of the movie, was so fast I started to find it hard to keep up, and literally took my breath away as the credits came up. All in all, the effect was amazing, and something that I have not personally experienced when watching any film before.

As the title indicates, "Requiem for a Dream" does not contain a happy ending. It is in no way optimistic, and only gives the audience faint pieces of hope and happiness. However, It does show what desperate people are willing to do, and how desperation will change someone's life to its entirety. It is in the recognition of desperation where hope lies.
Devastating, grotesque masterpiece
When I go to the museum, I am often awed at these still lifes from dutch painters of the 16th and 17th centuries. There were those beautiful still lifes, showing a vase of flowers down to the slightest detail. But oh, it would be the one that captured some sort of devastation or ugliness that would capture my attention. The strange thing was as devastating and grotesque one would be all the more beautiful and engrossing.

What is beautiful about such a painting is the thing that makes Requiem for a Dream such a beautiful film. A true artist captures what he or she sees, lives, or feels. If the artist fails to do this, then they create a sugar coated work. It is satisfying for the moment, but ultimately fails to leave a lasting impression. Too often, "artists" compromise their work for the sake of commercial success, painting "beautiful" pictures that are often too common in the field. Requiem for a Dream defies this by painting a grotesque, gripping portrait of addiction. Not once does Darren Aronsky flinch in creating this pictures. It is at time ugly, grotesque, sick, and devastating. But like a classic still life, you can't turn away as you stare at every stark detail.

What I love about this film is that you know your own in for a downhill ride when you begin the film. Jared Leto's character is taking his mother's TV to be sold to get drugs. This moment just scratches the surface of the downward spiral we are about to witness. Aronsky's characters suffer and never turn back. And nothing more need be said of Ellyn Burstyn's fantastic performance as she deals with delusion, drug addiction, and an addiction of a different sort, with the television.

The film has a big finish which is one of the most classic scenes in American film. Although I imagine most pointed towards this review have seen it, I dare not spoil it. It's the final detail in the still life. The one that makes you stare and stare - not so much at its beauty, but its sheer unrelenting truth.
first off, this movie is a bit repetitive, which is of course on par with the idea of showing people being addicted. (mother likes her chocolates a bit too much first (later on she turns to diet pills), her son and his friends are into harddrugs of various kinds) and all are constantly on the outlook for more of the same kind. the problem with movies about drug-addicts is that however alien their situation may be to a person watching it, the person still needs to feel compassion or have similar feelings towards them in order for the movie to 'succeed'. alas, no such thing here. the main characters (apart from the great acting mother) all look like the lousy but oh so trendy 'actors' you see in commercials or videoclips (there are plenty of references to both, but i can't think of a single one right now that wasn't a cliché or that wouldn't be beaten senselessly by the overall sublimeness of 'magnolia' or the freshness 'trainspotting' had at the time). so, the movie's protagonists are mostly 20+ year olds with nothing on their hands but trying to score and use drugs (and screwing even that simple given up). the characters just don't come alive for me and the obligatory postmodernistic/ nihilistic/ apocalyptic downward spiral which sets in is boring as hell to watch through even though (or just because) the whole thing is cut up much like a flashy videoclip. obviously so to hide the lack of insight on behalf of the makers (though i have to say here i absolutely loved 'Pi', aranofsky's debut which i rate very highly). the crappy finale was partly stolen from kubrick's overrated 'eyes wide shut' and it almost made me laugh because it was so unbelievably unbelievable to see the various plots develop as they did. on a more positive note, the soundtrack is great though, as was Pi's (nevertheless aphex twin would eat mansell any day of the week, kronos quartet or no, but the soundtrack is without a doubt the most intriguing facet to this otherwise one-dimensional fiasco) - go see terry gilliam's 'fear and loathing in las vegas' instead if you want a 'bad trip'. at least gilliam doesn't solely rely on clichés or gimmickry and even when he does, it always shows somehow that he doesn't take himself too seriously or that he uses the right amount of irony / cynicism, something mr aranofsky obviously has yet to master).
Absolutely one of the most overrated films of all time
You know, the problem with this flick is that the director is really good, the actors are really good, but the plot is just too stinking far fetched. I mean, come on, a little girl on girl sex is NOT something to get really upset about. I mean, working in an office for a living is a LOT worse than that. There are literally thousands of women who do that sorta thing for a living.

And then there's the problem with the guy and his arm. First problem with that is that no junkie, NO JUNKIE, would keep shooting into a vein that is that messed up. Junkies are not that stupid. They have their own lore and protocols, that they pass to each other, and that includes using different veins. Aronofsky obviously has never met a real life junkie. And that crap about getting arrested out of a doctors office. ANYWHERE in this country, if a doctor refused him medical treatment, dang, even if a doctor called the cops on the guy, that doctor would get his ass sued from here to eternity. There's something called doctor patient privilege, they're not ALLOWED to call the cops, ever, under any circumstances, barring a direct threat to someone else's life. AND if the was imprisoned, denied treatment, and then lost his arm, attorney's would be lining up to sue not only the doctor, but the state where he was imprisoned.

SO, even if the the incredibly unlikely event that the junkie let his arm go that bad, then the astronomically unlikely event that a doctor would risk being sued and losing his license to practice medicine by calling the cops, and THEN the cosmically ludicrous event that the guy would be denied medical treatment by the prison, he would STILL have lawyers lining up for the fat 50% fee they'd get from suing all those people.

The movie is about as tragic as if they'd all somehow won the lottery and then been struck by lightening the following day.

Requim for a Dream is not depressing, it's laughable.
Don't believe the tripe!
While the trailer for this movie was seductive, most notably for its MTV-style quick shots from the film & music, actually watching it was an experience in torture. This film is one big cliche. Perhaps US raver kids (born after 1980) who have never seen a good film might find this to be "different" & "unusual", but for anyone that's seen non-US or pre-1980 films, this film is one big bore. It's presentation of drug use is no more complex or realistic than the "This is your brain on drugs" PSAs that graced US television sets more than a decade ago. If you're into stream-of-consciousness & lots of style in your drug film check out "Naked Lunch", If you're into the drama & humor of it all then check out "Trainspotting", or if you need a dose of pessimism & reality then check out "Drugstore Cowboy". Hell, even "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" is better than this mess. The acting is awful, especially Ellen Burstyn. I was never convinced that her over-the-top performance was anything but acting....if you really want to see a food performance from her check out "The Last Picture Show". What irks me most about the film is that its MTV-style quick cuts & soundtrack really mask the fact that there is really nothing to it. I could have spent the 90 or so minutes I wasted watching it doing something more my laundry. By far the most boring drug movie I have ever seen. Advisory: take some caffeine or amphetamines first if you want to stay awake to the ending.
Apparently, making sense is optional if you have a split screen.
It baffles me how Aronofsky has managed to fool audiences and critics to rave about not one but two nonsensical stories in the last few years. If you manage to keep your cool under the barrage of imagery thrown at you from frame one you should be able to spot plot holes in this film so large that they'll make Pi's nonsensical ending look like plausible narrative.

What bothers me most with these, apart from the fact that they make this film essentially pointless, is that they are all there simply to justify some supposedly shocking visuals. I can't help it, I must provide a list.

SPOILER SPACE (you shouldn't care, but it's the rules)

* * * * * *

1. Harry goes to a hospital to get his obviously gangrened arm cured. A doctor spots him as a drug addict and calls the police WITHOUT TENDING TO THE ARM FIRST. The weirdest thing about this is that the poor guy is later sent back to the hospital to have his arm cut off. The good part for Harry is that he should become a rich man in no time, after suing the doctor, the hospital and probably the police.

2. A dealer won't sell heroin for money, but he will trade it for sex. He could hire all the hookers he wants with the money he'd earn selling the heroin, specially considering he's the only provider for the whole city at that time. Still, all he wants is to see some lesbian sex live. Apparently, this is in the movie only to create tension between the lead and his girlfriend. Well, and to show Jennifer Connelly naked.

3. A previously healthy old lady is allowed to degenerate mentally to the point of being confined and given electroshocks without receiving any help, even though she's been shown previously socializing with many other people. For some reason the only person who realizes she's sick is his son, who doesn't care much for her anyway. Not that he does anything about it, either. Strangely enough, there's a shot of her friends waiting in the asylum looking worried while she receives electrical discharges without anesthetics.

4. Even though heroin can be injected practically anywhere, the lead will do it always in the same place. Even when the spot becomes a purulent wound he'll still do it the exact same position. Not an inch above, not in the other arm, not in a leg. Right in the middle of the wound.

* * * * *

END SPOILERS (but there are more of these, believe me)

You know, I wouldn't worry about plot holes that much if the filmmakers had set out to create just a series of disgusting images to show them around. The thing is they didn't. They made an attempt to create something vaguely resembling a storyline, they even had a shot at a subtext. They simply failed miserably. Let's see, this film seems to be about addiction. The points made about addiction in the film are:

a) Many people have addictions of different kinds.

b) Addictions aren't good things.

c) Disgusting things happen when people let their addictions go out of control.

and maybe, just maybe...

d) With addictions at first you'll feel good, but then you'll feel bad.

So much for depth.

But we might also have some character development, right? We could neglect story and subtext and still have strong, compelling characters.

Just we don't.

Even the best of the characters we're shown is one dimensional and flat. Everything the characters are or do is put there to be dismantled later, which makes it all feel like a cardboard building in a Godzilla movie. It's fake and cheap. Everything. The leads' love story, the mother-son relationship, friendship between Harry and Tyrone, and between Sarah and the other women. Nothing feels real because Aronofski only cares about the next cool shot.

This film might get you distracted enough the first time you watch it and make you to believe there's some depth behind that nauseous feeling in your stomach. In the end, it's just empty imagery planned to create a nauseous feeling in your stomach.

If you want imagery go and see the latest summer blockbuster. It might at least be some fun.
Like being repeatedly punched in the back of the head by Mike Tyson
It's difficult to know what to say about Requiem For A Dream. I first saw it in the cinema when it was released in England and I have never seen an audience react to a film like this one. The climactic sequence, where the protagonists are effectively destroyed by their addictions, seemed to trigger a bout of heavy breathing in the audience. As it was ending I heard a few people crying. My girlfriend and I didn't say a single word to each other on the bus home.

I bought the film on DVD the day it came out, but it took me around six months to watch it again. And only then because a friend of mine was curious. If anything, the impact was heavier than the first time I watched it and I've vowed never to watch it ever again.

Yet I have still awarded a rating of 10 on imdb and would definitely assert that it's one of the three greatest films I have ever seen. Why? The acting is just amazing. Jennifer Connolly gives the best performance of her career (not too tricky considering the movies she's been in) and remains stunningly beautiful (in a haggard sort of a way) and noble even when she's roped into a gang bang to fund her heroin habit. Jared Leto annoyed me intensely in Fight Club but he's perfect as hapless junky Harry - forever exuding an air of kindly incompetence that endears him to the audience but that will ultimately destroy him. Marlon Wayans is equally brilliant - wearing a beaming smile for the first half of the film and a compelling look of confusion and betrayal for the rest of it.

As for Ellen Burstyn... never has an actress been so unfairly cheated out of an Oscar (and I've seen the atrocity that won Marcia Gay Harden that Oscar for). She is just the picture of sadness the whole film through - a heartbreaking example of what loneliness can do to vulnerable people. The scene where she complains to Harry about being old is honestly one of the most tragic things I've ever seen and it makes me want to break down just thinking about it.

As such, I can only recommend this incredibly important movie with certain reservations. If your favourite film is 'You've Got Mail' steer well clear. If 'Snow Dogs' has been your most thrilling cinematic experience of this year then put this film back on the shelf. Trust me, it'll save the costs incurred by those expensive therapy sessions.

However, if you believe that cinema is an important tool in helping us understand ourselves and that we will only achieve self awareness by plumbing the absolute depths of despair and self-destruction then you must watch Requiem For a Dream.
A different face of the fear
Connectivity and complexity of the characters are forcing us to really care (and be shocked) how will this movie end. The culmination of events is fantastic, achieving a phenomenal emphasis on loneliness and decadence of the characters. Innovation in framing the act of drugging leaves a remarkable impression on the viewer. If you ask me, this movie should be played to children in schools. In that way there would definitely be fewer drug addicts, because I do not know a better way of showing how these drugs can destroy someone's life. The music is also phenomenal, and also is the very end of the movie. This is one of those movies that will not leave you indifferent and for sure it is going to reflect on you long after seeing it. That's why this movie might not be everyone's cup of tea.
Unique, but extreme, preachy, and overrated film
This will likely be the most modest review you'll read of this film in the first few pages of a sea of 10s. I nonetheless, am convinced a 7 is the highest the film deserves. Aronofsky creates a unique film about the horrors of four characters spiraling into a chaotic conclusion due drug addiction. However, his reliance on creating an extreme, hyperbolic film undermines the movie's appeal. The film seems to be an example of pushing the boundaries simply for the sake of pushing boundaries, as no real message. It would be similar to calling a horror movie a 'classic' because the director showed a bloody decapitation after bloody decapitation or a romance movie being considered a 'classic' because it has 1/2 hour of real sex. Nonsense. The best films are the ones that leave the gory or gruesome details to the imagination yet leave you with an extraordinary impact and a message. I really got no message from the film which is heavily focused on torturing four miserable characters again and again....and again and again. What's the point? The four main actors in the film are phenomenal. Marlon Wayans surprisingly gives a stunning break out performance for someone known for starring trivial and mediocre pop culture comedies. He may have given the best or second best performance of the four. Jennifer Connelly gives a credible performance as a desperate and loyal girlfriend forced to do unthinkable sex acts. The actors strengths are their modesty and ability to succumb themselves to the most demeaning things possible.

The music of the film is memorable. The film has one main theme song, but it is the most memorable and haunting theme song ever I've ever heard. I downloaded it immediately after the film. The music emphasized the tone of the film.

The major weakness of the film, despite the great acting, are the characters. There's no bones about it, the characters are pure idiots. The fact that they're idiots leaves me little ability to sympathize with them, and I was trying my hardest. Furthermore, despite other reviewers efforts to paint them as "tragic heroes", the main characters are not heroes in any form. It's even a stretch to suggest that they're good people. For instance, Connelly's character initially seduces an older man simply to get money. Leto's character upsets his mother repeatedly by selling her television set. Yes, they all do this to subdue their addiction.. but the term hero cannot be thrown around aimlessly. They're simply dubious protagonists. Yeah, they try to aim to get out of the drug culture and start prosperous lives. The characters have great chemistry with each other, they are somewhat slightly charismatic, but they don't do anything remotely generous or pious in the film to warrant praise as "tragic heroes."

You can watch this film and immediately see the end coming. Part of you naively and helplessly hopes the film takes a sudden right turn into brighter pastures, but that is simply not the case. Aronofonsky might tease you in the beginning, but he brings you to the most overly dramatic conclusion like a car crashing into a brick wall. Ironically, while many critics bashed 'The Passion' for overemphasizing torture and maiming of Christ again and again and again and again over other aspects of Christ (and rightly so, that film has its flaws as well), it surprising these critics praise similar methods of repetitive "how can it get any worse" torture done to rather shady characters nonstop.

I'm not saying this film needed a happy ending to be a good movie. But if it has a tragic ending, it should have a message. If it's just "don't do drugs", than that's a grave disappointment and waste of time for a supposedly deep experimental film.

To his credit, the director utilizes a neat and impressive artistic style known as "hip hop montage." The surreal spinning directing was a doozy but a great asset to the film.

This film I guess is worth a watch once. But once is only time I've seen it, and I'll never sit through that film all the way through again. Period. I'm pretty confident in saying that most of those "10s" people have only seen it once and will make an excuse not to see it again. The only people who will see this film again are overly depressed and eccentric, pessimistic types.... A classic has to be more than a overly nihilistic novelty act.
Tries too hard.
Slow motion, fast motion, slow motion with fast motion, spins, split screens. How many trick camera shots can a director fit into a feature film? If your Darren Aronofsky, you can fit in about 17 million. At least that is how many I thought I saw in Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream.

I was excited to see Requiem for a Dream. I somewhat enjoyed Aronofsky's previous film Pi. I thought that if the guy that made Pi had more money he might really be able to do something. Requiem is something all right.

Requiem for a Dream has two main story lines. One follows Sara (Ellen Burstyn), a loving mother of a bum son, through her quest to loose weight so she can fit into a special red dress to live out her dream to be on television. The other follows her son Harry (Jared Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) on their quest to live out their dream of making a really big drug score.

Both stories are dark. All of the characters, including the Sara, the loving mother, take the pathetic, downward spiraling road of drug addiction. The film follows their stories to the absolute bottom, and then leaves it there. There is no redemption. There is no hope.

Requiem tries too hard. It wears "artsy-fartsy" as a badge. Just because a movie is really dark, doesn't mean it is relevant. Just because something has a very distinctive style, doesn't mean it is a good style. I didn't hate Requiem. Burstyn's performance was amazing. Leto wasn't bad either. I wanted to like it. I wanted to be in the group of people that "get" this sort of film. I don't want to be some bumpkin. I don't want it to be over my head.

I didn't like it though, and I don't think that I'm being a bumpkin. I "got" this movie, more like a disease than an understanding. I don't think that it was over my head, more like it bashed me over the head.

I give Requiem for a Dream 3 out of 10 stars.
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