Pubdate: Sun, 11 Feb 2001
Source: Sun-Herald (Australia)
Copyright: 2001 John Fairfax Holdings Ltd
Author: Rob Lowing


The new American drug drama Requiem For A Dreamis arty, headache-inducing 
and frequently unpleasant to watch. It's also memorable, unbearably sad and 
one of the few movies around which would seriously make anyone hovering on 
the brink of drug addiction drop that needle and flush those pills.

The film is directed by Darren Aronofsky, who made the low-budget, 
claustrophobic Pi.

The film follows a year in the lives of four intersecting characters. 
Central is Sara Goldfarb (Burstyn), a widowed pensioner spending most of 
her day watching television or chatting with other ladies outside her New 
York flat.

Her son Harry (Leto) is always on the move, a hustler who parties heartily 
with his girlfriend Marion (Connelly) and his best friend Tyrone (Wayans). 
These kids are young and energetic and a little pot-smoking and 
speed-snorting doesn't slow them down.

But then fate and addiction's inexorable march begins to shape the 
quartet's lives. Sara is offered the chance to go on her favourite 
television show. Almost speechless with excitement, she's determined to 
look her best. But dieting is too slow; with barely a glance, her doctor 
prescribes diet pills.

Harry and friends, meanwhile, have cooked up a drug dealing scheme for some 
fast money. But they can't resist sampling the merchandise, leaving them 
with a lethal drug hangover.

The first half of Requiem For A Dreamplays as though the editor is being 
electrocuted - or maybe it's the viewer. There are endless jump cuts, slow 
motion, fast motion, colour flashes, split screens, skull-numbing sound 
effects, too much noise, not enough noise and endless weird camera angles.

The result is both self-indulgent and creatively arresting. Director 
Aronofsky is one of the few who seems to have recreated a drug experience 
right up on screen. Unlike Fear And Loathing In Las Vegaswhich turned a 
drug trip into surreal black comedy, Requiemdoesn't editorialise. It 
presents the action with a clinical approach which is sometimes alienating.

In the second half, the story settles, underscored by human tragedies 
everyone can relate to. The plot is based on the book by Hubert Selby jnr, 
author of Last Exit To Brooklyn. The story seems to drift down the standard 
drug-nightmare paths but thanks to superb editing, the four stories build 
to one pivotal moment, a moment which left some members at one public 
cinema preview flinching visibly.

In the face of all this stylistic bungee-jumping, the actors sensibly opt 
for naturalistic performances. Burstyn is heart-rending as the lonely widow 
who wants to feel "worthwhile"; her physical transformation is also impressive.

Jared Leto (Fight Club) and Marlon Wayans (Scary Movie) are both excellent 
as the puppy-enthusiastic dealers. Jennifer Connelly is stuck in what is 
the film's most hackneyed subplot - the rich gal forced into degradation 
because of her drug use.
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