Angel, angel down we go
By Ken Fox
Depending on the refinement of your sensibilities, you'll find Darren Aronofsky's visually dazzling adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.'s grueling 1978 novel either hard to take or hard to take seriously. In any event, it's a wild ride and a worthy entry in the hallowed canon of drugsploitation flicks that already includes REEFER MADNESS, THE TRIP and THE ACID EATERS. Set in and around Brooklyn's Brighton Beach and the dying dreamland of Coney Island, the film follows four lost souls as they chase the vapor trails of their dreams into chemically induced perdition. A random telephone call leads sweet, zaftig Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) to believe she's going to be on TV; wanting to drop a few pounds, she becomes hopelessly addicted to diet pills and goes insane. Sara's son, Harry (Jared Leto), and his girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly), shoot heroin and dream of opening up a clothing boutique. To bankroll their dream, Harry and junkie pal Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) score a quantity of near-pure smack, which they cut and distribute. But as the money rolls in, their habits increase, and when their source suddenly runs dry, Harry, Marion and Tyrone find themselves in their own private drug hell. With the same hyperinventiveness that made his debut feature, PI, so dynamic, Aronofsky directs for maximum impact, using just about every known camera technique (and then some) to simulate the rush-and-crash of the drug experience. Not that Selby's already sensational material needs juicing up: His characters fall so far, so hard and so fast that by the time the movie reaches its revolting climax — a veritable hallelujah chorus of degradation — it feels no more convincing than the fates of the hopped-up psychos from MARIHUANA: THE WEED WITH ROOTS IN HELL. Aronofsky has given us a well-acted, gorgeously overwrought and luridly entertaining exploitation flick — a midnight movie for future generations.