Requiem for a Dream

Stars:  Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto

It’s really hard to like a film if you have nothing invested in the characters. And if you have no interest in them, then there is something seriously wrong with the script and no amount of camera and editing gimmicks will save it.

Darren Aronofsky directs this film as if someone handed him a shiny new camera and editing bay and said “Here, knock yourself out.” It’s the kind of filmmaking you might expect from a college or film school student. In any case, it stinks.

The story revolves around 20-something druggie Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto), his preppy fashion designer druggie girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly), his druggie best friend/partner Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) and Harry’s lonely, widowed mother Sara (Ellen Burstyn) who gets hooked on diet pills. Each, with the exception of Tyrone, devolve into pathetically addicted messes with dire circumstances. This is portrayed through the excessive use of extreme closeups, unnecessary split screens, a dizzying array of camera angles such as overly low shots, high shots, overhead shots, spinning shots, strange hand-held camera shots and scenes devised solely for their shock value.

Some people inherently equate scenes of sex, nudity, and/or violence with art. They’re not art – they are what they are – for shock’s sake. An overhead pinwheel shot of two nude actors in bed might make for a pretty visual on canvas, but in film, it better serve to move the story along or there’s little point to it.

To depict the use of heroin, Aronofsky uses flash editing of closeups of the substance, syringe, boiling liquid, a dollar bill, dilated pupils. It’s a neat little visual package and it’s used over and over again. Enough already.

Sara overdoses on the same TV game show as much as she does on diet pills to get ready to become a contestant on the show. She hallucinates an attacking refrigerator tempting her to eat. The images are relentless in their redundancy.

The film was a good three-quarters over before my interest was mildly piqued and that’s only because Aronofsky stayed with the characters a bit longer and lightened up on the visual b.s. I know he was trying to imbue a sense of isolation at times or the sense of what his drugged characters might be experiencing, but it’s all technique and no substance. I just didn’t care about these people even one iota to feel their pain.

Lotta says Requiem for a Dream ought to die a quick death and Aronofsky should be put out of his misery. This is an Aronofsky adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.’s novel Last Exit to Brooklyn.

Reviewed 1/10/01