Sunday, February 27, 2011

Review: Requiem for a Dream

This film is devastating. It's exhausting. It's beautiful in the most terrifying way possible.

Requiem for a Dream is directed by Darren Aronofsky, who has been fairly unrecognized until this year's Black Swan. Even now, people are more fired up about the girl-on-girl action than they are whether or not the film deserves awards, or who it was directed by. Well the directing job here in Requiem is fabulous. The film follows a mother, her son, and his girlfriend and best friend, as they lose themselves, sell themselves, give themselves, to drug addictions. There are four actors who carry the whole of the film on their shoulders, a striking editing job, and a riveting soundtrack that combine to make to make Requiem a masterpiece about our inner demons and the monster of addiction.

Clockwise from top left: Druggie, Druggie, Mama, Druggie.
It stars Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly in one of her strongest performances ever, and Marlon Wayans, who despite his tendency to nab Razzies, comedy nominations, and Kid's Choice Awards, pulls off his role like some kind of pro (that's called great directing, kids).

Actress Ellen Burstyn plays one of the main characters, Sara Goldfarb, an aging mother who lives alone, and slowly begins to drown in an accidental addiction. Now Burstyn is someone you may not have heard of, so let me fill you in on a little secret. She's an actress of the highest caliber. She's been nominated six times for an Oscar, and won only once. But Burstyn is one of only twenty-one people who has ever won the "Triple Crown" of acting, winning an Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy, a feat even 16-time Oscar nominee Meryl Streep can't claim. Even before she completed her Triple Crown Emmy win, she was nominated in 2006 for an Emmy for a performance of only 15 seconds and 38 words. Her character didn't even get a name in the credits of that episode, just the title "Ex-Lover #3". Ellen Freaking Burstyn, ladies and gentlemen, Ellen Freaking Burstyn.
"Yeah, and I'm 78 and still a babe, take THAT Betty White"
Despite Ellen's incredible performance in Requiem for a Dream, she lost the Oscar to Julia Roberts' Erin Brockovich. Lame. It's kind of like if Shakespeare in Love had won Best Picture in 1998 instead of Saving Private Ryan...OH. WAIT. Damn.

The film's fourth star is actor-musician, Jared Leto, who plays addict/dealer Harry Goldfarb. Leto, who has acted in a surprising number of Oscar winners and critically acclaimed films, is probably slightly better known as the lead singer of the band Thirty Seconds to Mars, but that's not saying much. He's not really the Brad Pitt of household names.
Even though he should be.
[insert gratuitous picture of shirtless Jared Leto here]
His band was the first Western band to film a music video in China, the first to film a music video in the Arctic Circle, and the first to feature the voices of tens of thousands of fans as an instrument of sorts on tracks of their album. But back to his acting. Leto is infamous for his methods of getting into character, and for Requiem the actor shed nearly 30 pounds from his already-slight frame, lived homeless with drug addicts on the streets of New York, and the Aranofsky allegedly asked him to refrain from having sex for thirty days to feel what it's like to really crave something.
This is who his girlfriend was at the time:
Cameron Diaz. She was pissed about him
being a starving smelly homeless guy who
wouldn't sleep with her.
She's now his ex.
The experience of being Harry Goldfarb was so traumatizing, that after they were done filming, Leto flew to an effing monastary in Portugal to like, recover from his no-longer-so-fake addictions.  Seriously.

"Sheeeit, Portugal?"
"Yeah, Wayans, look at my teeny arms, I'm liek fainting right now."
Also the soundtrack was written by Clint Mansell, with string quartet arrangements by a Pulitzer prize winning composer, David Lang. It was so good that it's been used over and over for films like I am Legend, Babylon A.D., The Da Vinci Code, Lost, and even the Lord of the Rings films.

Just so you know, when I say this film is disturbing, don't say I didn't warn you.

Profuse use of profanity, a bunch of nudity, and sex, you name it, it's in here. It was so disturbing the MPAA, gave the film an NC-17, causing Aronofsky to release it as unrated and dooming it to open in only 2 theaters in the nation to make a grand total of $64,000 it's opening weekend, which is about how much Arnold Schwarzenegger was paid for three words of dialogue in Terminator 2. Despite Requiem for a Dream's wrenching realism, and the staggeringly phenomenal performances by its cast, the director and editor's work, and the soundtrack, the film didn't make much of a splash, and garnered only a single, lonely Oscar nom.

It rather defies genres; it's not an action flick, it's not a romance, it's a drama, but it's somehow also horror. Requiem for a Dream deserves more attention, to be sure, but just be aware you may not be able to sleep without having terrifying drug dreams about your appliances trying to eat you for about a week. It's that good.

Director: Darren Aranofsky (Pi, Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream)
Rated: Not Rated (original)
R for intense depiction of drug addiction, graphic sexuality, strong language and some violence (edited version) 

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