Saturday, September 8, 2012

Nightmares In Drug Addiction: A Great Film Not Worth Watching - Requiem For A Dream

The Good: Excellent direction, acting, presentation, themes
The Bad: Nightmarish, unredeeming characters
The Basics: Disturbing and horrific, Requiem For A Dream is well directed and well acted and an experience so miserable that it should not be watched. Ever.

This might end up as a short review and if it does, that should certainly say something significant about Requiem For A Dream. It's a rare thing that I rate a movie as high as this one and still give it a "not recommend." It might seem an oxymoron. I can and will acknowledge the technical achievement of Requiem For A Dream, but I can think of no good reason to subject other people to this film.

Sara Goldfarb is an old woman who is lonely and dreams only of appearing on an inspirational television show. When she is invited to be a part of the studio audience for the show, she becomes determined to fit into her old red dress, which means losing weight. To lose weight, Sara begins taking dieting pills (speed) and becomes horribly addicted. In the same summer, her son Harry begins working as a drug dealer with his friend Tyrone. His goal is to help his girlfriend, Marion, afford her own business.

Come fall, though, Tyrone is arrested and the drug market is drying up. Frantic, poorer and addicted, Harry, Tyrone and Marion begin to do whatever it takes to score drugs to get high and make money, ruining everything in their lives in the process.

Just when I thought I had seen Jennifer Connelly in the most depressing movie I could see her in, with The House Of Sand And Fog (reviewed here!) I find out about and witness Requiem For A Dream. Requiem For A Dream is an unrelenting movie that I can only describe as a psychologically horrific masterpiece by director and writer Darren Aronofsky and writer Hubert Selby Jr. Aronofsky reminds the viewer what great direction can do. Great direction TELLS the story the director wants to convey, using the full medium to its greatest advantage. Aronofsky does this masterfully by blending together the lives and drug use of Sara, Harry and Marion.

I finished watching Requiem For A Dream approximately fifteen minutes ago and I'm writing my review now because I do not want to ruminate on the film. I intend to erase it from my memory. That's how powerful the imagery was. Aronofsky is explicit with the drug-use imagery and the repetition of it combined with the mixing of the scenes of legal and illegal drug use create a nightmarish cinematic landscape that is boring into my brain.

The acting in Requiem For A Dream is utterly convincing. Ellen Burstyn, who I loved in the inspirational The Spitfire Grill (reviewed here!), is captivating in her descent as Sara. She makes full use of her body language and facial expressions to convey paranoia and loneliness. Her acting is tremendous here; there is not a shred of strength of character in her that she has used in other characters she has played.

Jared Leto is creepy and good as Harry. Perhaps the big acting surprise was Marlon Wayans. The Wayans brothers are most known for comedy and Marlon here has no humor as Tyrone. He's cold, calculating and dramatically heavy. That he did not win any awards for his portrayal (he was nominated for several) is too bad.

Jennifer Connelly . . . sigh. I suppose once you've watched Connelly play a character who degenerates into a crackwhore, you've pretty much seen everything an actor can do. Watching Connelly made me sad. There's no other way to say it. Her performance is wrenching and depressing.

I can take depressing movies, but I want there to be something to come back to, something to make it worthwhile. Something that catches me. The direction here is good, but all of the characters are unredeemably miserable. I feel foul having watched this movie and that's why I know it was well-made.

I think this movie is suitable only as part of a "scared straight" program for 12 year-olds with reinforcement with clips from the latter half of the movie every six months until they are terrified adults who never use drugs. Outside that, no one deserves to be subjected to this movie.

For something far more entertaining and overall better, try Magnolia (reviewed here!). Now I'm off to take a shower and have some ice cream and forget I ever saw this movie.

Honestly, though, I doubt I'll be able to sleep.

For other films that are well-made, but not worth watching, check out my reviews of:
Hard Candy
An American Crime
The Other Woman

8/10 (Not recommended!)

For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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