|Cast:||Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, Christopher McDonald, Louise Lasser, Keith David, Sean Gullette|
|Screenplay:||Darren Aronofsky, Hubert Selby Jr., based on his novel|
Once in a great many years comes a film of such power and importance, a film that can match any for both substance and technique. This is a film whose main message is so simple, yet it's so multi layered and multi dimensional because it's never willing to settle for less. This is a film whose characters are so real, yet so scary. It's a cautionary tale, yet a film everyone can relate to regardless of experience with the drugs it's warning against. You know people like these, but you hope you don't know people LIKE THEM.
To look at this simply as a drug movie is totally missing the point. The heart of this film is the dream and the void. Almost everyone will admit to having a dream, but a void can be a tough thing to get out of a person because either they are too close to see it clearly or are afraid to admit how they've failed so far. Fulfillment of the former and filling the later are two of the toughest parts of life.
You can't survive mentally without some level of satisfaction. You need to know that you and/or your output are worth something to somebody. The four main characters in Dream are looking to fill a void in their life that's rooted in their family.
Ellen Burstyn's Sara Goldfarb has no reason to live. She's a lonely old widow whose son comes over when he wants to steal the TV to hock it for drug money. Still, she loves her son and wants so badly to be proud of him. Since her husband died she can't bring herself to discipline him because, for better or worse, he's all she has. That said, she has to keep her TV chained up and hide when he comes over. It's not chained up to stop him, it's to stop the robber, but since they are one in the same that doesn't leave her with much.
Jared Leto's Harry Goldfarb has no one to direct him and no feeling of self worth. He has potential and wants to do good deeds, but lacks discipline and understanding. He's been screwing up long enough to become a screw up because no one tried to stop him and set him on the right course.
Jennifer Connelly's Marion Silver and Marlon Wayans Tyrone C. Love are fairly opposite characters. Marion comes from a well to do Jewish family who gave her money but not love, while Ty is from a poor (most likely) single parent African American family that gave him love but had no money. Marion is very fragile because no one ever truly cared for her, and thus lacks the confidence to succeed as a designer. Ty's mother didn't care if he was rich or successful, but he always felt that was the only way he'd be worthy of her love.
The characters aren't dreaming of ruling the world, they just want to fill their void. They all want to win someone's heart but don't know how. Sarah longs for a family, and the only way to get it is for Harry to get married and have a kid. Her dream finds her early on when she gets a call telling her she's been selected to appear on a TV show. She sees this as the opportunity to make people embrace her and consider the Goldfarbs to be good and important people.
Marion is Harry's dream. He always thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world, and thus never considered himself worthy of her. He thinks she would be good for him if he can earn her, but can't understand her problems and that he already has her. His lack of understanding is shown in the first of two dreams where we see him running to meet Marion at the end of the pier. My first thoughts were Harry had seen Connelly in the great movie Dark City because this is a total ode to Shell Beach, or rather Aronofsky saw it and realized so much more could be done with her although mainly through sheer talent she did manage to show a lot of diversity in spite of the genre and limited screen time. However, Aronofsky claims to Movie Answer Man that the scene was based on meeting a girl he had a crush on in a Coney Island Pier and was set up before he cast Connelly or saw Dark City. Where the scene differs from Dark City is when Harry calls her name, she turns around but looks beyond him (no cameo by Rufus Sewell though). This shows his insecurity, that she'll soon move on to something better because he's not good enough for her.
Marion's dream is for someone to love her as a person, for someone to take an interest in her and truly provide for her. Her father (and Connelly's) is in the garment industry, but we get the idea that instead of saying "your clothing designs are good" or "here's how you could improve them" he said, "here's $100 now leave me alone." Like her ability, her immeasurable beauty has not done her any good because she didn't find a way to utilize it. She wound up with this overconfident, older, annoying, not particularly attractive geek named Arnold (Pi star Sean Gullette). He only adds to her feeling that she's nothing. Her parents forced her to go to therapy, probably to help "solve" the problems they don't realize (or perhaps care?) they've caused. She despises therapy so much, at least in part because once again her parents have choose to spend the money over the time, that she'd rather see the dork, which consists of bad dinner conversation and worse sex, than have sessions with him. In a sense, Marion's parents have already ruined her, but unless Penelope Cruz is knocking on your door I can't see how you could resist taking a flier out on her. Actually, I probably need to quantify that remark. It is certainly true that for the majority of the movie Marion is a character I'm glad I'm not within 100 miles of. However, in those other scenes Connelly reminds us why a picture doesn't tell half the story, giving Marion the caring, sensitivity, playfulness, delicacy, and so on that made Connelly's previous characters impossible for me to even try to resist. It's similar to her Eleanor Abbott where the character could have been just a bad girl, but Connelly brought so much depth and dimension to the character that you almost forget she's "bad" because she was rebelling against a code of sexual morals that someone else (mainly her unapproving hypocritical father) decided she must adhere to. Inventing The Abbotts Co-producer Ron Howard (who now cast her as the female lead in his upcoming directorial effort A Beautiful Mind) commented "There are a lot of people who would play the bad-girl role as someone who's sexy and fun, but at the end of the day just the bad girl. Jennifer managed to escape that. She really made your heart go out to (Eleanor)." With Connelly there's almost always a wonderful sense of mystery, which makes her performances more entrancing and seem better upon repeated viewings because you better understand all the feeling and emotion she's pouring out or repressing. Anyway, the end result here is I believe Marion could have become a very different person if she was with a man who saw her and whose pastimes weren't destructive. She is a waste because wasting herself is the only way she knows to get away from the pain brought on by her failed "relationship" with her parents. For the most part, she would have grown to like doing whatever it is the man who saw her liked doing because she just wants to be with that person who makes her feel like one. Since the only man she can form something resembling a bond with is Harry, she's a waste because Harry is a waste.
Ty's dream is to make his money quickly and retire. His mother probably spent her life working long hard hours for little financial reward. He's sure that life is not for him, but he doesn't exactly have the education or ability to score on Wall Street.
Connelly gets the two definitive lines in the movie, and they come within 35 seconds of each other. The first is "anybody wanna waste some time?" Now, if this were coming from me it would be in a mocking tone, probably making fun of the Mallrats. However, from Marion it's a rhetorical question that sets off a drug party. Connelly delivers it so well too. She's got this devilish smirk to her smile and seductively raises her eyebrow before putting out the pills in her hand. This is not a case of someone looking forward to a party; it's reveling in accomplishing nothing because when you believe you are nothing then you usually become outwardly enticed by aspiring to it.
The problem with these characters is they waste their time because they don't find any reason to value it. Before the phone call, basically all Sarah did with her time was watch worthless prattle like game shows. After the call, she splits time between this and trying to keep her elderly neighbors, who are just as empty, fussing over her. They all sit outside talking about her diet and waiting for the mailman (Ajay Naidu), who can't even get close to them without them hopping up and nagging him if he has something for Sarah Goldfarb.
Harry & Marion pass their time with drugs, sex, and mischief. It's revolving pointlessness where each event is merely foreplay for the next since none fill the void. Even though we only see it once, you can see in the way Connelly pulls the wire to set the alarm off that for Marion it's an "art form." She's most seductive when she shares this entertainment with Harry, and no picture or words in my vocabulary can describe Connelly's appeal during the scene where he comes home with the much needed fix and she says "come to me." That said, for the most part these activities are just there because it's the only way they know how to and can operate. It's basically the same for Ty. He has a naked woman on his bed, but he has to lie to her when she wonders why he's day dreaming because he can't admit he's thinking about pleasing his mother. Their lives become ruled by drugs, but before that they are ruled by their hunger for what they don't have.
The hunger blinds them from what they actually have. This is particularly true of Harry and Marion. Harry technically doesn't want anything for himself: all he wants is for the people around him to be happy. All he'd need to do to make his mom happy is spend some quality time with her. Instead, he sees what fills the void, TV, instead of what creates the void, his absence. When his drug business is going good he goes to see his mom, but really only to tell his mom he just bought her a TV. He can't see his mother's needs ("I don't need a present, just have a baby") because he's too deeply immersed in I'm not worthy of Marion syndrome. He can't see what Marion needs for the same reason. He wants her to be a designer and have her own clothing store because that's what she's good at so that should give her fulfillment. He's actually right, it would change her life for the better, but she just wants to be with him. Marion is designing while Harry is selling, but after summer we never see her designing again. Instead we get one scene of her destroying some of her designs and whatever is "in the way" in a desperate rage-filled search of every cranny of the house for some drugs that are not to be found.
All Marion wants is for someone to really see her, and that's why she only wants to be around Harry. Harry thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world from the moment he first saw her, but that made her well above someone to consider using for sex. It made her a person to do everything in his power to win and hold on to, someone to cherish. That attitude won her love because he saw beyond her immense physical beauty, and that is what made her feel beautiful. There's a scene where he tells her about his initial reaction and she says she's been told that before, but it was always meaningless. To the others, regardless of whether they meant it or not, she was just an object. What he saw in her and that she knows he's the first and only person that truly loves and cares for her not only made his opinion of her looks meaningful; it made her feel like a person. It's so obvious that she loves him. Although this relationship was screwed up from the start, before the addiction took over they fulfilled each other's dreams. The thing is Harry doesn't realize it, so he doesn't get the sense of worth and fulfillment. In fact, Harry is so oblivious that he's madly jealous of Arnold. Marion probably realizes it, but her self esteem and goals are so low that it doesn't help her. When Harry tells Marion she could be good for him, we hear in the way Connelly says "think?" that she's flattered someone could feel this way about her, but she doesn't believe it to be the case. "She's someone who can't make a human connection and winds up destroying herself trying to fill the void," - Connelly from an interview with Bob Ivry for The Record.
Connelly's second defining line is "what's the catch?" In order for Ty to attain his goal of early retirement and Harry to make himself believe he's worthy of Marion by making enough money for the two of them to open a clothing store together, Ty & Harry come up with a plan to score big selling drugs. Of course, having a plentiful supply of drugs around sends their addiction spiraling out of control.
The film doesn't simply take a stance against illegal drugs. Sarah gives up on her traditional starvation diet almost immediately because all she can do is think about food. She talks big, but inside she believes the only way she can lose weight is to take pills that make her not want to eat. These pills, uppers and downers, are prescribed by a real doctor. She's naïve enough to believe that all doctors are nice guys who know exactly what they are doing and prescribe a lot of harmless drugs because that's the only way to alleviate all health problems. She knows better by the time Harry comes over, but in one of the classic scenes of the film she won't admit it because she can almost fit into her precious red dress now that she's lost 25 pounds. The film certainly isn't kind to doctors with Sarah getting the line "of course he gives me pills, he's a doctor" after Harry calls her on constantly grinding her teeth. Harry has some understanding of the pills because they are basically prescription versions of things he's taken, but when he asks his mom what's in these pills she's taking she says, "Harry, I'm Sarah Goldfarb not Albert Einstein. How should I know what's in them?" She pitifully tries to convince him that the side effects of the pills aren't that bad because the problem goes away when she takes "the green one" (downer). "30 minutes I'm asleep. Poof, just like that." As usual, even though she tells Harry the red dress is meaningful to her because she wore it to his graduation and it made his late father look at her in a special way, he see why she holds it near and dear.
The characters had vision problems from the start, but the addiction makes the characters blind in all but the literal sense. This is such a powerful anti-drug movie because it essentially says if you think you have problems now, if you try to fill the void with drugs, wait until you see what the drugs do to you. They will rob everything you thought was important to you. Drugs will add to your void, make your only hunger be for them, and crush any hope of attaining your dreams. They will rob you of your dignity, self-respect, and health. Your brain will no longer control your actions, the addiction will. It'll take everything like an alien possessing you. Drugs rob you of everything.
Hubert Selby Jr's filmography only contains two writing credits. It's a weird coincidence that my two favorite actresses are named Jennifer, even weirder when my parents tell me that would have been my name if I was a girl, and really came into their own with his scripts. Requiem and Last Exit To Brooklyn represent two of the best and most memorable movies about people whose situation isn't the greatest looking for love and acceptance, but ultimately being destroyed by things they become unable to prevent themselves from doing.
After reading Selby's book, Darren Aronofsky had to figure out who the hero of his movie was going to be. Ultimately, he decided that the hero was addiction, since addiction in its many forms won out in the end. Hero is an interesting choice of words, but it points out how this film succeeds on so many levels. Even though we don't agree with the actions of the characters, we feel for them because we recognize them and get to know them intimately. These are four of the most tragic characters you will ever find. We absolutely hate the addiction, but we never doubt its power.
This is not a story where we expect a happy ending. It's a story where we expect death, but we won't be let off that easily because the cliché better off dead actually applies here. In death, at least on earth, there is no more suffering. Instead, we are forced to sit through this nightmare where the characters fall apart piece by piece until they are essentially left with nothing BUT THE ADDICTION. As their various tragedies conclude for us, they lie in their various beds of confinement in a fetal position, a physical sign that they want to escape their brutal future and return to the womb. People think horror is some stalker that rises from a lake when he's struck by lightning. That's cartoon; this is horror because it's so real.
Requiem is a movie of remarkable intensity, but it's hardly an unbearable movie. One reason is the structuring. It's split both literally and figuratively into three seasons. If Aronofsky had split the seasons up evenly, his movie would not have worked nearly as well. He wouldn't have had enough time for character development, which would have made the subsequent sections less sad and tragic because we wouldn't have been as into the lives that were crumbling before our eyes.
The movie actually doesn't start with summer, summer starts when Harry & Ty get money for Sarah's TV to purchase drugs with. About half the movie's runtime is during summer, the happy time when they all believe their dream can become a reality.
Fall, which should be taken literally, begins when Ty is running for his life after his promotion in the drug selling ranks goes awry and he winds up getting pinched. This is Aronofsky starts cranking things up because everything gets worse and worse. Things get faster as the decline progresses with summer is soon being a distant memory, as shown by Ty saying it "seems like 1000 years ago since last summer, man."
Winter begins when everyone has lost it. Sarah is totally strung out looking and acting crazy during a trek to try to find out when she can be on TV. Harry & Ty are traveling to Florida for drugs but Harry is really sick and Ty is so out of it he thinks they are going to California. Marion flips the picture of her and Harry over because the phone number of the pervert with drugs is on the back. It's a clear choice of one over the other, but she's not doing the choosing. This section is a super intense, relentless nightmare that constantly rotates us through the horrors of the four stars.
What makes the nightmarish quality of the film all the more powerful is the diversity of them. Everyone is equal in their addiction, it's hopeless. However, Sarah's nightmare is mental, Harry's is physical, Marion's is sexual, and Ty's is ancestral. The nightmares not only reverse their dreams (we see the same dream sequence later on in nightmare form), but turn these characters into what they fear most. It's the ultimate degradation.
Although winter is the shortest, this section and its lack of traditional closure allows Aronofsky to drive another key anti-drug point home. Time flies by when you are at the top before the addiction has totally taken hold, but is seemingly eternal when you are at the bottom. At the bottom, all there is hunger and craving for what you used to have and what you never attained even when you had it.
Obviously this is not an uplifting film; it's one of many sad ironies and tragedies. To me, those of Harry & Marion's relationship stick out most. They are all each other has, but they never fully come together because they see more in each other than they do in themselves. Since their aspirations were negligible and at least Harry was already a user, it's drugs that play such a big part in bringing them together. When they are fully addicted and getting more and more desperate, it's drugs that drive them apart.
The film uses Harry more than the others to show how unreasonable drugs make you. The key to this is showing him being reasonable when he sees his mother is addicted. Here, the fact that he's not that close to his mom helps because he can stand back and speak from his experience without quite saying so. He tries to drive home some key points like she's the same to him whether she can fit in the dress or not and she'll be dead before she gets to appear on TV. Of course, after this his own life gets too out of control and he hangs her out to dry by never coming back.
Contrasting sequences show that his own addiction is why Harry can't be reasonable. He's never used drugs with his mom because it's no fun and she's not a user in the traditional sense of supposedly doing it for fun. Due to this, there's no pressure or temptation from her, and he can just do his own stuff in the regular environment when he leaves. When his stuff and the people he uses it with are around though, he's hopeless. After he stresses not immediately screwing up their new business, he's so easily convinced by Ty that it's a good business practice to test the stuff so you know how much to cut. When Harry & Marion have enough to each get high one more time, he's easily convinced that Ty will get them more in the morning even though there's nothing out there at this point. It's not that he's stupid, it's that the addiction has robbed him of the ability to think clearly and the will power to even use somewhat conservatively. It's turned him into a person of need and want. In addition to the addiction though, the difference between the way he acts around his mom and the way he acts around Marion and Ty is that his mom doesn't relate to his dream. What he thinks will allow him to attain his dream has blinded him to reality.
Harry is so jealous of men Marion sees nothing in, but when she tells him she doesn't know what she'll have to do to get the money from Arnold, he still doesn't think twice about pushing her to do it. They both essentially know what she'll have to do, but are too desperate for another fix to be able to get off a track that can only lead to many aspects of destruction. Connelly's display of mournful despair as she asks Arnold to turn the lights off before he sexually devours her is perfectly contrasted by scenes of Harry watching a shopping show, but seeing Connelly looking her best and enjoying a little harmless sex with Arnold in the elevator. Harry & Marion's had at least foreplay in the elevator early on, but now he feels the pain of willingly replacing himself because it was the only option the addiction would allow. The conversation they have before her final sex act of the movie is legitimate tearjerker, at least in part because the acting is so good. Both are filled with such sorrow, regret, and emptiness for what the addiction makes them do and has already taken from them, but they've totally lost the ability to fight so the addiction just carries them from one horror to the next. It's probably the most powerful scene of both performers careers.
Technically we don't see how Harry, Marion, & Ty find drugs or perhaps how drugs find them, but we don't need to because Selby & Aronofsky use their most unlikely addict to warn us against the seductiveness that starts it all. The game show that Sarah is always watching defines her life in many ways, but beyond that Darren Aronofsky chooses to use it as a metaphor that shows drugs are ultimately a con. The promise that they'll reward you, free you of your problems and give you fulfillment by making you special and important is quite simply a lie. Aronofsky even goes beyond the movie he's made to drive this point home. The DVD jacket promises free extras, including interviews with him and the cast. The DVD's menu has clips for the infomercial, but the extras are nowhere to be found. Instead, there is a 900 number, which doesn't even work. The home page www.requiemforadream.com is similar. All of the links yield an error message when clicked. It's all a con - just undelivered promises - much like the use of drugs.
The acting in this movie is truly exceptional. If you want to really impress me Lay It On The Line and give me a Triumph. All four stars do so, in abundance. Yes, it's "only a movie," but you don't just flip a switch and suddenly become an incredibly haunted, consumed, and strung out looking character that's constantly falling until you reach the bottom of the pit of despair. It's really draining and stressful, both physically and emotionally. I certainly don't plan on making this the regular size for my reviews. I told Dan before I started writing it that the movie was so good it intimidated me. I didn't know how my review could do it justice because there's just so much to the movie. So I wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more, and when I'd stop writing I'd still be thinking about it...because I couldn't get it out of my head. Not that I wanted to, but I think I have more appreciation for the performances and the messages in them because simply writing this review was really consuming and draining.
The stress level is one reason Ellen Burstyn's performance stands out so much. Leto, Connelly, & Wayans are young hungry well-conditioned performers with something to prove, which makes them more apt to and better suited to subject themselves to the extreme rigors these parts require. On the other hand, Burstyn is 68 and has long been recognized as one of the finest performers. She certainly didn't take this role for the money because the budget for the entire picture was $4.5 million. The only thing she has to prove is, like Darren Aronosky said, it's almost a crime on the world that Hollywood hasn't hired her in 20 years.
Burstyn should have won Best Actress. All things considered, she almost deserves it just for putting herself through this torture, but I'd never give an award to be sentimental. Her hollow aging addict will stay in the memory for years for many reasons, most notably her facials and how she goes from misguided to delusional. She was on a level that far exceeded her Oscar winning performance in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, and I'm the last person you'll find downplaying Martin Scorsese's work. It's sad that the worst movie on her resume is the dreck with Julia Roberts, Dying Young, and for her best movie she loses out to probably the worst actress to ever win that Academy Award.
The brilliance of Burstyn's performance is how she puts up this front that her life is on the upswing because she's going to be on TV soon at the same time her health and looks are crumbling before our eyes. When made up, she normally doesn't look that much different than she did in 1973 when she gave one of her best performances in the classic horror The Exorcist. Here, not only is she not afraid to look absolutely wretched, she does a great job of it. She's running around, grinding her teeth, looking frizzled, empty, withered, lost, and insane as she clings to the premise that her life is about to get better. She is so believable throughout the film. Her character's actions are so pitiful, but she's such a tragic and sympathetic character. The key reason being that she starts off like many lonely old people who lack a reason to live, yet finding something to live for is what ruins her because her actions and priorities are screwed up.
One reason Burstyn's performance is so memorable is she puts on a clinic on how to use your voice. In her dramatic scenes, she's changing her sound with at least every sentence to emphasise the hope, sorrow, regret, despair, emptiness, showiness, and patheticness of her character. She does all this without ever straying from the Sarah Goldfarb accent too. She plays the role with such conviction that she can be hilarious without even the slightest hint of comedy in her delivery.
The excellence of her delivery is particularly obvious during the long scene where Harry visits the house. This segment includes the best quote that shows how dream and delusion have become one in the same and these characters (Sarah in this case since Harry is reasonable but not understanding) have no idea of what's really important. It's also a great example of the shallowness, emptiness, and loneliness of Sarah.
Sarah: You don't know? I'm gonna be on television. I got a call and an application
Harry: Come on ma, who's pullin' your leg?
Sarah: No, no, no. I'm tellin ya I'm gonna be a contestent on television. I don't know when yet. They haven't told me when yet, but you'll see how proud you are when you see your mother in her red dress, television and golden shoes.
Harry: What is the big deal about being on televison? Those pills your taking will kill ya before you ever get on for Christ sake!
Sarah: Big deal? You drove up in a cab. Did you see who had the best seat? I'm somebody now, Harry. Everybody likes me. Soon millions of people will see me and they'll all like me. I'll tell them about you, your father, how good he was to us. Remember? It's a reason to get up in the morning. It's a reason to lose weight, to fit in the red dress. It's a reason to smile. It makes tomorrow alright. What have I got Harry, hmm? Why should I even make the bed or wash the dishes? I do them, but why should I? I'm alone. Your fathers gone. You're gone. I got no one to care for. What have I got Harry? I'm lonely. I'm old.
Harry: You have friends, ma.
Sarah: Ehh, it's not the same. They don't need me. I like the way I feel. I like thinkin' about he red dress and the television and you and your father. Now when I get the sun I smile.
Leto has come a long way since starting on one of the worst shows in TV history, My So Called Life. He could easily make a living taking pretty boy roles, but although he's occasionally participated in pointlessness like Urban Legend, he apparently aspires to much more so he takes a role like this that really challenges and calls for him not to be an idol or even look his best. He lost a lot of weight for this movie (not that he was heavy or anything) to add to his strung out look. Leto is at the center of the movie because his character is the only one with a direct relationship to the other three stars. This gives him the opportunity to react to everyone else's actions. He finds the right feeling for all these relationships; mixes inadequacy, sorrow, hope, regret, and confidence. He can seem intelligent, on top of things, and so sure of his ideas and judgements, but Harry still never gets things right because of lack of understanding and the addiction. Just an excellent subdued emotional performance.
Connelly finally has been given the time to give a truly memorable performance in a film that will actually be seen. Everything she's done since '94 has been quite good to exceptional, but she's gotten little respect for it. She gave a great, extremely difficult and highly complex portrayal of a rich Chilean fashion journalist turned freedom fighter in Of Love And Shadows, but it was almost a direct to video release and nothing else about the movie was close to good (in spite of the box using no quote about her but instead one that claims it's one of Antonio Banderas' best performances). In her second straight role where she wore no makeup (not that she needs any) and her body was hidden, she totally made Far Harbor with her performance as a dreamer trying to get over loss, but it had almost no distribution. In Waking The Dead, especially if you have a chance to see the deleted scenes on the DVD, she gave what aside from the two performances in this film (and certainly in some ways better than her work here) is the best actress performance I've seen thusfar from a 2000 movie as a passionate idealistic political activist, but it got no support from the studio and was out of the few theatres that showed it in two weeks in spite of being one of the years best and most powerful films.
This was such a gutsy role for Connelly to take because, usually for worse, most of her fans are there for her looks. This role in many ways goes against her "image," which I think is part of the point since she's been trying to get people to take her seriously for quite a while, and certainly her performances have been worthy of it. It's pretty unfathomable that a sex scene involving her could be a turnoff, much less more than one. Aside from the lack of distribution of her starring roles, probably the two main things that have Connelly down since she started coming into her own with the very good and underrated Some Girls are lack of screen time and/or the higher profile roles that didn't require a lot of range. Certainly she has made some mistakes selecting her roles. The Rocketeer was the one character in the span that she didn't fully embody and the publicity was worthless since she followed it up by kind of putting her career on hold while she went from Yale to Stanford. Her "comeback" in Mullholland Falls after some time at Stanford was another one because, although she got to work with the likes of John Malkovich & Nick Nolte and remains one of the better (actually only good) points of the film, it was a sexual object role that offered little screen time and guarantees that half the audience won't be looking where they're supposed to be. It didn't even give her the chance to be nearly as good as she was in the made for TV noir The Heart of Justice that she'd made in '92 when she was a considerably worse performer.
This was such a perfect role for her because the first half embodies the many things she's done well for the other directors who weren't interested in fully utilizing her abilities, while the second half is largely stuff she hasn't been asked to do. It's like she summed up her adult career and then said but this is what you were missing. I think this was in a sense flipping the bird to everyone because she still plays the familiar best looking woman in the world role, but shows that this character need not prevent you from spanning the gamut of emotions and making a real statement. Beyond that though, she shows that she's been working the best she can with the hand she's been dealt, but she's capable of so much more with a different set of cards. The difference between this role and The Hot Spot is that came along at a time where her looks and age were so perfect for it that it's difficult to imagine any other actress getting the part. That can somewhat overshadow how good she was working within the limits the good girl in noir places on you, although this points out a big difference in her earlier and later work because now she brings so much passion and honesty to the characters that they take on their own life and aren't limited by "the rules." Here, that I agree wholeheartedly that she's the most beautiful woman in the world is meaningless because an actress with 1/15th her appeal would still be good enough to make us not roll our eyes at Harry, especially since there's really no other women in the film to compare her to.
Connelly's blow-ups in this movie are so memorable because she's normally so soft-spoken, delicate, and sensitive that you can't help melting. Here she has an intensity, explosiveness, ferocity, and vulgarity of someone that has been playing these kind of roles for years even though no one thought or bothered to ask for it from the mesmerizing All American girl. Just look at the piercingness in her eyes during the dream scene where she stabs Arnold. You almost feel like it wouldn't matter if the fork punctured him or not because she'd burn a whole in the "smug fuck" with her eyes, which perfectly contrasts with the actual segment where she almost can't bear to look up at Arnold and you can see her fear and lack of control of the situation when she finally forces herself to. This is not a let's see Jennifer Connelly play Jennifer Connelly with a filthy mouth and low cut outfits like Erin Crockovshit was for Julia Roberts. It's a role we didn't know if she could play because so much of this is not Connelly and she only gets one or two brief chances to pull so many different things off. She should have won Best Supporting Actress because to fully conquer this role like she does it usually takes at least the runtime of this movie focusing largely on the person trying, but she manages to do it as good if not better than most that had that opportunity. After her work in 2000, it's not a question of whether she's good enough for any role, it's whether the role is good enough for her. She certainly proves she can turn up the volume when she needs to, but what stands out is the whole of her work. As was the case with Waking The Dead, she gives such a moving and deeply effecting performance.
I had previously considered Marlon Wayans a silly actor I didn't want to watch, but he proved to be more than capable of excelling in a serious role. On the few occasions where he made a joke, he was funny. It's interesting that Ty is inspired by the 70's TV series What's Happening!! because one of the key problems of this threesome is they don't have anyone like "Raj's" mom to bail them out of trouble.
Keith David revels in his devilish role. He is not overtly evil; he's addicted to women. He is empowered by holding the key to the remaining drugs, and his knowledge of what the addict will do for a fix allows him to fill his sexual void in any degrading manner he or his accomplices choose. This is why he's shown from a low angle when he answers the door to let Marion in. It seems like he towers over her, which establishes that he has the power in the relationship. Later, we see close-ups of his mouth saying the lines, and his voice and laugh during his final scene are so terrifying because you can feel his gratification in someone else's suffering.
Aronofsky should have won Best Director, with ease. The film can go head to head with anything when it comes to technique and diversity of it, but he also got the best/most memorable performances out of 5 performers and created something of great substance and worth. It's a filmmaking tour de force by Aronofsky.
There's such a wide array of great technique here, and all of it adds to the film. The kinetic camera work of cinematographer Mathew Libatique emphasizes the magnitude of the character's addiction. There are scenes where the characters and camera move as one (it's kind of a more believable version of a technique Scorsese used somewhat differently in Mean Streets, they appear to be standing on a platform that's attached to and moves with the camera). This allows the character to seemingly glide on the air; they symbolically aren't walking on their own two feet because the drugs are pulling them. One memorable scene occurs after Marion has whored herself for the first time. Looking ill and barely there; she glides through the hallway, down the stairs, and out of the building where she vomits. She is aware enough to know she hated what she just did, and her body emphasizes it, but she can't help herself because the addiction is in total control. What I liked about the way this was filmed is this was shot is the camera rocks a little from side to side like they are stepping, so it doesn't come off as a manipulative production technique.
The figments of Sarah's TV dreams look like something out of the circus. These are surreal scenes that seem inspired by the likes of Federico Fellini and Alejandro Jodorowsky. When things are going good, she's a happy dancing act. When they aren't, she's the freak show whose fear of non-acceptance is exploited.
There are other figments of Sarah's imagination. When she's on a traditional diet, tempting looking and smelling food appears everywhere. Sweats are even coming down from the ceiling when she's trying to sleep as if they were space ships trying to land in her mouth. Even after she's addicted to pills, in Naked Lunch like segments she still sees the refrigerator calling to like it's alive.
The drug scenes are in fast motion because the character's lives are buzzing by without them realizing it. They are dreaming about filling the void at the same time that they are making it bigger. This technique really enhances the scenes where Sarah is on uppers, and is well contrasted by slow sections with slurred speech when she's on downers.
The editing is incredible. It's the condensation tool that previously has almost only existed conceptually. We are often treated to a kaleidoscope of images, but they are so vivid and when necessary have such telling sound effects to back them up that they don't need to be on the screen long. Occasionally a scene goes by too fast, like the one at the end where two of Sarah's friends hug each other on a bench. Overall though, the editing allows Aronofsky to tell a far deeper and more complete story than the 100-minute runtime suggests. There's a lot more here than in most 3 1/2hr movies, always something new to pick up.
Split screen is used to show the same scene from each of the two characters perspectives. It goes deeper than that though, it shows they are so far apart even though they are together.
The title essentially means the film is a musical composition for a dead dream, so it's not surprising that the music plays a key role. Clint Mansell's score is so responsible for setting the mood, tone, and pace. It can be calm, serene, and lyrical or intense, edgy, and unsettling. It can exist quietly in the background or it can be so prominent that you feel it's driving the images. For me, what stands out the most about the soundtrack is when it's cranked to maximum intensity during the scene at the end where all four stars are being tortured in one way or another. Every time I see this scene, this music is in my head for hours, which really drives home the point that their nightmare doesn't end just because the movie does. I don't know how well the soundtrack stands on it's own, but to me the way to judge a soundtrack is how much it enhances the movie it's made for, and by that standard Mansell's work here gets the highest marks.
The makeup really adds to the realism and drives home the physically destructive nature of the addiction. Burstyn only looks good when she has the ideal dream of her TV appearance. The drugs make her grow increasingly pale and wrinkled with red all around her bloodshot eyes. Harry gets an infection where he bends his left arm that looks like a giant swelling needle hole. The only time we actually see a needle go in an arm is to disgust us that he shoots there anyway because he's more concerned with wasting the drugs than with his own well being.
Connelly's make up works on a deeper level. Marion can be her natural self around Harry, so she feels good about her looks wearing little to no makeup. The drugs and the thought of the objectifying men make her face glisten and shine in the kind of way you don't want it to. She paints herself when she's going to be around these men because she feels uncomfortable and is doing something she doesn't want to. It to covers the red bags under her eyes from the drugs and her crying, although the tears smear her makeup. After she's with them she makes herself up again, as if to try to hide the sins from Harry and herself.
The Motion Picture Annihilators of America are synonymous in my mind with making terrible decisions, but denying Requiem an R rating may be their grossest error. The film should be a powerful anti-drug tool. It could be because it actually speaks to people. This is not some "just say no" crap that you laugh at even if you would never touch drugs.
Requiem doesn't even unintentionally glorify drug use. It cannot be used as a tutorial because aside from the aforementioned exception, drug use is not shown in any traditional sense. We get hyper edits of close ups of the preparation process, but as transformation scenes that simply tell the audience they are "pushing off" so Aronofsky can quickly proceed to show all the ill effects. The drugs are never even named because that would allow for the age-old excuse that only certain drugs are dangerous and addictive. It's not about uppers, downers, and heroine being bad, it's about all drugs being powerfully addictive and that addiction being ridiculously destructive.
What is the MPAA supposed to be protecting us from? With the exception of Wayans sex scene, that shows it as a disinteresting and unsatisfying time passer, all the "objectionable" material is shown in a very negative light. The violence and swearing, neither of which is plentiful, are also looked down upon since the drugs spawn them. There's nothing in this movie almost every kid hasn't at least heard of by 6th grade, and no one that saw this movie is going to be running out and purchasing drugs or dildos. In fact, the only effect the movie could have is quite the opposite. Why then is it easier for kids to get a hold of drugs than to get into a theatre (few of our puritanic theatres will even show an NC-17/unrated movie, not to mention our leading rental chain, Blockbumber Video, won't carry them) a view a movie that may save them from making a life ruining decision. I don't by the too intense argument because if it makes an impression, if it scares you, then it could have a positive preventive effect. It's when it doesn't mark you that you definitely blow it off.
Requiem's ending really spikes it's point by leaving the horrors and showing the way things should have been. It's how the movie would have ended if they didn't all screw it up by filling their void with drugs. By leaving us with this rather than a funeral, what we've just witnessed is not lessened but magnified. Not only has all the painful treatment Sarah has been through has not cured her, it's left her as a far more pathetic version of the same delusional woman. All of the consequences are so powerful, disturbing, and real. We don't forget them, we think we should figure out the right way to get to that final scene so we don't live a similar nightmare. At the very least, Requiem is the best movie since Goodfellas.