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Requiem for a Dream

I went to see 2000’s Requiem for a Dream at Gateway Film Center. It was my first time seeing the film in about 7 years, so it was like watching it anew. The film surrounds four individuals– a mother, her son, his girlfriend and their buddy– as they spiral into drug addiction.

Ellen Burstyn plays Sara Goldfarb, a widow who is depressed by her weight, her stealing son Harry (Jared Leto) and having no one to care for. She finds out she might be on TV and after failing diet attempts she gets speedy, diet pills from a crap doctor. She becomes addicted and unravels quickly. Burstyn must have gone through some major makeup and wardrobe in this movie. At one point she looks young and beautiful, and then by the end she is completely haggard and wrinkly. This character really got to me the most. It seems older women are just as susceptible to self-esteem and body issues as young girls. More in expressions than words, Burstyn relayed how tough it was for her character to have no husband and a neglectful son. Though she did have some signs of being senile and psycho, the drug addiction really brought it out. The part of the movie that got me most and broke me down was when her neighbor-lady friend visit her at the hospital. It was a feeling of helplessness when you find out something terrible about a friend and never caught on to their despair.

Harry played by Leto was a little less loveable of a character. From the get go the viewer knows he’s a drug addict. Willing to even steal from his mother to get a temporary fix. I had very little sympathy for him throughout the movie. He becomes a drug dealer alongside his buddy Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). They are pretty successful and Harry and his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) start saving up money to start a small business. These high hopes are crushed by the crime-ridden business they are in. By the movie’s end you are left feeling pity for Harry because his life seems to be in disrepair. But his final moment in the film could also be seen as hopeful, because he has nowhere to go but up from the rock bottom he hit.

Marion was a character I could identify with (just in some regards!) She is young and hopeful about life. She just wants to party and have a good time but is easily influenced by bad people, i.e. Harry. She slowly unravels and her addiction leads her to terrible, risky situations. The end of the movie is pretty meager for her. She’s found a fix but like all it will be short-lived and she’ll be back in compromising situations to get more. Like all of the characters, Marion couldn’t see the bigger picture beyond her next fix. She had so much talent as a clothes designer but didn’t have enough confidence in herself.

Like all the characters, I both loved and hated Tyrone. He was a pretty sensitive guy when he wasn’t too stoned. The viewer gets a lot of glimpses into his past and he truly longs to go back to a time when he was younger in his mother’s arms. When he wasn’t stoned the viewer could see a strong sadness in his eyes. The kind when you know what you’re doing is wrong but it feels so good. I was hopeful for his character because he was arrested and put to work. That was probably the best thing to happen to him, because it forced him to quit cold turkey.

Simply put director Darren Aronofsky has a gift. He knows how to utilize the screen to its full capacity. A lot of shots were split screen which allowed the viewer to focus on both character’s reactions at the same time. The way he placed the camera for different shots was unconventional and original. The difference in shots compared to other movies can’t help but be noticed because it’s a new experience for the viewer. After seeing the movie again I can pick up all the commercials and movies that now reference Requiem for a Dream. The use of quick, subliminal images in Requiem is mimicked heavily in commericals. While some criticize the movie for being too gritty, disgusting and depressing, I embrace it for those reasons. It’s a no holds barred look at the drug world. It would be unrealistic to paint the character’s life in a rosy, happy way. By movie’s end there’s no way a viewer would want to go get high, unless of course they are heartless.



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