Requiem for a Dream (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The MPAA -they are a bunch of knobs.

This film was rated NC-17, meaning that nobody under 17 can ever see it legally, irrespective of their parents' consent.

In fact, the exact opposite should be true. Everyone under 17 should be forced to see this with their eyes open, using the Ludovico Technique. If you can look at this naked truth about the culture of addiction, from the pen of Hubert Selby, Jr, the 60's-era poet of degradation, and then still get addicted ....

.. then nothing can save you.

I watched a friend die from a heroin overdose in 1969, and when he died the rest of his friends and I admitted in our grief and shock that we were actually relieved. We were frightened to admit those thoughts, because you aren't supposed to feel them, but we all shared them, even his girlfriend. His death meant that we didn't have to see those people he hung around with and did business with. It meant we didn't have to lock our doors and chain down our valuables any more. It meant we didn't have to deal with those times when he couldn't think of anything but his next fix, and those times when we were exposed to the rituals of serious drug taking. It meant we didn't have to pretend to think his dreams were realistic, and we didn't have to pretend any more that we thought he might make it back up and out.


Jennifer Connelly is seen briefly in two overhead shots, with nothing visible in these shots except a portion of her rear, and that could be anyone.

She is also seen clearly bottomless in a lingering camera set-up early in the movie, although her breasts are covered.

Aliya Campbell is nude in a sex scene with Marlon Wayans, included a shadowy frontal.

Marlon Wayan's rear is seen briefly in two scenes.

Keith David's rear is seen in one scene.

There is some additional nudity at Big Tim's party, but it is distant and anonymous

If you've been there, brother, you don't ever want to go back. You don't even want to get near.

Aronofsky's film has it exactly right, with potent impact, and with dazzling technique. People have claimed that his 2000 cuts are just pretentious showing off. Not at all. He's made a movie about addiction which is locked inside the addicts' POV. He shows that intense close-up on the drugs to mirror their single-minded obsession and inability to see anything else. He's sped up or slowed down reality to match their perspective in that cycle of height and craving.

There are movies that are impossible to watch because they are so bad. This movie can also be impossible to watch, because it is so powerful. The visuals and music in the last 20 minutes are harrowing.

The performances support the pyrotechnics impressively. All four of the stars are extraordinary, and could be nominated for awards, including Jennifer Connelly. All put themselves on the line for the film. Burstyn walked around with a body cast on for most of the film, and produced an amazing transformation. The fetching Connelly performed degrading acts. Marlon Wayans completely submerged his comic personality. Jared Leto lost a zillion pounds and was so into the role that he had to decompress with a mental and physical retreat after they finished filming.

If you don't already know, it is the story of four addicts. Three are in the world of heroin, and the fourth is one junkie's mother, a lonely old woman who becomes addicted to diet pills as part of a surreal fantasy about appearing on TV.

Although Soderbergh had a good year with two major hits, some people argue that Requiem for a Dream was the supreme directorial effort of the year. Both the technique and the emotional impact of this film are arguably superior to the same elements in the more mainstream Traffic. The Online Critics association did choose Aronofsky as best director, but he was not even nominated by the Academy.

Let me be clear about this. It is a brilliant movie. It accomplishes about everything that a film can accomplish - poetry, sadness, hope, satire, reality. It puts your emotions through a wringer. It is one of the few films I have seen in the last decade to realize the real potential of the film medium as the literature of our era. (In the past three years: this film, The Sweet Hereafter, Magnolia, maybe a couple others I'm forgetting). Although the film is harrowing and frightening and depressing, it is also exhilarating to experience, as if those Disney World simulators took you through a life of addiction instead of a space voyage.

On the other hand, it is a serious, artistic, depressing and intense movie, maybe the most intense movie I have ever seen, so if that isn't your thing, avoid it.

Tuna's comments in yellow

When I saw the release announcement for this film, and read the blurb, I said to myself, another "drugs suck" film. I will pass on this. After reading Scoops review, I ordered it. First, let me say that everything Scoop said is correct. The director tries very hard to show the 1st person POV of addiction, and uses every trick at his disposal to make the message effective. His use of split screen to show dual 1st person POV, rather than quick cuts, was an interesting one, although it could get very old very fast. The message is that drugs suck, and the film would leave an addict pusher with the impression that drugs suck.

I suppose I admire this film, and the exposure from Connelly and Campbell is a real plus. Burstyn is phenomenal in her role. I have to say that I did not like the film, and was glad when it was over. Scoop, in his review, mentioned The Sweet Hereafter and War Zone as other examples of devastating films. I was totally shattered after seeing War Zone, but gave it very high marks. This film just repulsed me. I guess the difference is that the War Zone gave me new insights into sexual abuse. I learned nothing from this film. For me, it contained no surprises, no new insights, and, worst of all, no hope. Every character is doomed.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • TWO alternate full-length  commentaries

  • Three featurettes

  • many deleted scenes

  • The usual bios, trailers, and tv ads

My favorite film about addiction, Clean and Sober, is a far more insightful look at the roots of addiction. The female lead dies, as do several other addicts, but Michael Keaton's character at least has a chance at the end, having earned his 30 day chip. This film ends with all four main characters hitting bottom with no hope. I appreciate the director's attempts to risk unusual techniques, but some of the camera work was distracting. In one scene, Burstyn's character is at the diet clinic. We see her moving in slow motion and talking just as slowly. The nurse is racing around and talking so fast she is hard to understand. I didn't understand the POV at all. Was the nurse on uppers? If not, then was this a dual POV without split screen? In two sex scenes, the couple is rotating, sort of like a microwave tray. Was there any message or symbolism here, or was it just glitz?

Despite the fact that I didn't enjoy this film, and have mixed feelings about how good it really is, I will say that it is much better than the last two Oscar Winners.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: close to four stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 4/4, Apollo 84.

  • Picked in the year-end top 10 by Roger Ebert, the New York Times, The New York Post, and Rolling Stone. Picked as #2 of the year by Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly. Picked as #5 by Newsday. Picked as #1 by Berardinelli.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 8.7 (top 100 of all time), Apollo users a very impressive 86/100. These scores are consistent with the critical consensus.
  • With their dollars ... it struggled to survive because of the crippling choice of no rating or NC-17. By telling the MPAA to stuff it, they kissed off any chance of wide distribution. Even the three million gross is miraculous, given the fact that it  never made it to as many as 100 screens (Blockbusters are shown on 3000+). It was made for a modest $4.5 million, and should break even with ancillary revenues.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is an A or a C+. There is no question that is it brilliant. The question is whether it has any appeal beyond a small core audience of people who can appreciate a film for emotional power

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