REQUIEM FOR A DREAM review
By Harry Knowles
And this is where the system breaks down.
This is the film, where the MPAA’s “let us protect the youth of America” rhetoric and hypocrisy shines brightest.
I woke up this morning and went to the Dobie theater here in Austin and saw a film of absolute brilliance. A film that when it was over.... I heard a group exaltation from the critics in attendance. A group awe.
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM received an NC-17 from the MPAA. Now usually we would see the film split down the middle and taken to an R so it could be advertised in family newspapers and so it could play in malls and so it could make the people that made it money. But ARTISAN.. thank God for ARTISAN... They allowed their balls to drop, and with this film, their voice changes... matures... Grows up.
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM is filmmaking at it’s height.
When you read the reviews coming out of Toronto that appeared on this site, you saw... “I don’t know if I can say I loved this film, or even that I liked it, but the movie is powerfully dramatic and even brilliant.”
Well, I can say I loved it. I can say I liked it. And I can say it was powerfully dramatic and assuredly brilliant. I am also of the firm belief that if I see a better film this year I will be ecstatic beyond all belief, because as of right now.... I’m shakingly jubilant at having woke up at the ass-crack of dawn to see a movie in a theater with STEREO and postage stamp screens.
Why do I attack the MPAA at the beginning? Why do I say the system broke down here? Why does this film pull back and lay bare the utter hypocrisy of the Liebermans and the McCains and the Valentis and all the other little ogres beneath the bridge of our society?
Because this film should be REQUIRED VIEWING by every friggin High School kid in the country. It should be unleashed upon them.
Will it disturb them? Will it shake their fragile little minds? Will it possibly make a lifestyle change for them?
Oh God YES. YES YES YES.
This movie is brutal... brutal in the most aggressively harsh reality moments we have in society.
You theater owners keeping kids out of the film from attending with their parents..... YOU SHOULD BE HUNG FROM THE NECK TILL FUCKING DEAD! Watch the movie in your theater. WATCH IT! Watch the whole film. Don’t look at a single moment... take it out of context... and then say, “A 15 year old can’t handle this!”
Darren Aronofsky has made a film that makes use of everything that Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Danny Boyle, Stephen Soderbergh, David Fincher and Tom Tykwer have used to redefine ‘cool’ cinema... Every pulse skip.... split screen.... frame shake.... tracking perspectives.... fisheye worldviews... trippy music... grand dialogue... And he’s gone and made a hardcore John Schlesinger MIDNIGHT COWBOY meets Martin Scorsese TAXI DRIVER world. This is cool meeting HARSH REALITY.
The movie lulls you into thinking... “Oh yeah baby... light me up one of them... prep the needle hon.... hand me the blue one... yeeeaaaaaahhhhh” And well, I don’t want to get specific, but... yeah, it gets rough.
Are you happy with where the characters are at the end... NO.... should it be different... NO.
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM needs to be the industry’s banner for reforming the ratings system. Politicians should see the film and dance to a different beat.
This film has an absolute moral center. And I know for a fact that I’ll see this film at least 10 times before the end of the year. Not because it is a happy film. Not because ewwww I love dark stories. I’ll see it repeatedly because it is just BRILLIANT filmmaking. This is that painting in that museum that you look into and wonder how and why the artist decided to use those brush strokes and that shade and you marvel that you get to look at it. This is there for you to examine and take with you. It is powerful POWERFUL filmmaking.
Now, what is it?
The film is centered around 4 characters played by Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans and Ellen Burstyn.
I’ll start with Ellen Burstyn. BEST ACTRESS GOES TO... Ellen Burstyn. This is not a question, but a fact. And if that fact doesn’t come to pass, then either there is an unknown film with a lead female role that noone has not even heard a whisper about... BUT, I can not imagine a better performance. I say this because quite honestly... Ellen Burstyn’s Sara Goldfarb in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM is one of the GREAT acting performances in history. This is right there with Bette Davis’ Baby Jane Hudson from WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE.... Elizabeth Taylor’s Martha from WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF... Right there... that type of performance.... that level. In otherwords, this isn’t just an award winning performance.... but the type of performance by which others forever judge performances.
Her character begins as your grandmother.... your mother... Your father or grandfather has died. And she is, for all intents and purposes... ALONE in this world. She has her little knitting circle and she has her game shows. But she isn’t special to anyone, she isn’t particularly bright... She has a big heart and noone to share it with.... the heart is cracked, and her life is ending a bit each day in the coma of retirement. She gets a call one day. They want her to be on tv. They want her to be on the show. She’s all excited. Thrilled. Something is happening to her. She goes to her closet and pulls out her red dress... the one she wore at (Jared Leto) Harry’s graduation. She doesn’t see him much, only when he drops by to steal her tv to pawn for smack. She puts the dress on, but it won’t zip up. She’s too fat for it. Some friends recommend various diets... She settles on the pills...
Now... that takes you about 30 minutes into the film with this character... My God.. the changes. Physical, emotional, mental... When her teeth begin to gnash and grind the chatter... when the refrigerator... well... when you see her on speed, dragging back down, speeding back up... the popping popping popping... It’s brutal. The delusion, the manic hysteria... “I’m gonna be on tv in my red dress...” shivers..
Ellen Burstyn.... consider yourself hugged. My god, BRAVO. Standing ovation. Tears out of the corners of my eyes and I whistle and clap till my hands hurt. My lady, you are a national treasure. Bless you.
This role and this performance with live in your memory.
Next, I’ll talk about Jared Leto’s Harry Goldfarb. This isn’t the Sam Jackson junkie son from JUNGLE FEVER... this is the white boy delusional soho junkie. Harry is basically a good person. He was your basic All-American goodlooking kid. Somewhere along the way, it went bad. He has the beautiful girlfriend, Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly), and the best friend, Tyrone C Love (Marlon Wayans). He’s supposed to be our ‘Rent-Boy’ or our ‘Drugstore Cowboy’, but Aronofsky applies a keen sense of Sir Isaac Newton’s That which goes up, must come down... to his character... and he never ever glamorizes down. It’s brutal... it is Ron Kovic brutal, with no happy up swing... no ‘magic legs’... Marlon Wayan’s Tyrone C Love... he’s our cool connection man... the pal with the line to the shit. He’s playing the best friend with drug connections. His character has the least screentime of the 4 I’ve detailed, but ya know what... Marlon Wayans is in a movie and he doesn’t suck. Not only that, but he’s real good. He doesn’t ham it up, he plays it right on. A strong supporting role.
And then, Jennifer Connelly’s Marion Silver. First, how long have we collectively been in love with Jennifer Connelly? Since LABYRINTH in 1986. 14 years now. I saw HOT SPOT and CAREER OPPORTUNITIES for her. That’s screen love. And here she is again. The most beautiful woman in film... just... oh man it’s rough. She’s 364 days older than me, and I’m still willing to let that slide. After watching her in this film... I tell ya. There’s just no way you can call a hooker or a stripper or go to a club that has those. I mean, physically you’ll be able to, but when you look at the girls... you’ll think of this story... of Jennifer Connelly. I really really hope that she pulls out a supporting nom for this character. She’s our Jodie Foster/TAXI DRIVER character except.... she’s our girlfriend... and she’s let down.
By the time you get all the way through this film... very lean at under 2 hours... you’ll be out of breath.
And then as you are walking into the lobby, the thought hits you.... This man is directing a BATMAN YEAR ONE film? Dear lord almighty. Yeah. Boy, that’ll be a fight we’ll have to make. I can just see it now, “I don’t want to care for these character, you’re supposed to make me wanna clap. Where’s the action?” Sigh. Who knows... maybe we’ll get lucky.
As for this film. It is a towering film. A masterwork. Significant. Entertaining. Enthralling. Poignant. Throw more adjectives on up here...
And seriously. If I were Artisan, I’d set up screening for the Presidential candidates this very moment. Good... Bad... it would help.
As for the MPAA... Well, you guys and gals are criminals. The system is broken. This is a film that MUST be seen, and by forcing a studio of integrity to release it Non Rated, then bullying the theaters into enforcing it like it is NC-17... It is a CRIME! By keeping high schoolers away from this film, you are possibly endangering them. You see... they can see TRAINSPOTTING... but this film... this one is the one that is the antidote for that film. It’s the ph balance. It’s the opening remarks into a teenage skull with illustrations and horrifying things that they may have never seen. This film could be for entire masses of people a lightbulb that goes off in their skulls that makes their eyelids finally pull back and see things as they are and how they’ll turn out.... AND YOU HYPOCRITES ARE GETTING IN THE WAY OF THAT!
Sorry, I’m getting angry. But making this film unwatchable by High School kids is like banning or removing from High School libraries, I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS. It infuriates me. It should infuriate you.
High Schoolers. If you are reading this. GET INTO THE MOVIE. If you must, buy tickets for another film and sneak into the theater (but have your legal aged friend or family member buy a ticket for this film... it’s important that it makes money) playing this one. It’s important... it’s great.
Aronofsky has just officially become a great filmmaker.