Requiem for a Dream (2000) Directed by Darren Aronofsky
The year 2000 seems far away. I turned 18, sat in a bar drinking the one glass of something I could afford for hours on end. I had bought my first pair of jeans in the States just before the new Millenium. Figure hugging spaghetti-shoulder tops were in, black leather pants were in, as well as tiaras and boots with square toes. The roof of the twin towers were something you could visit. I was dreaming a lot.
How innocent. Requiem for a Dream seems dated now in the same way as me being 18 does. Who wants to go back to that? Aronofsky must have been older than me then, but he certainly seemed to share my teenage perspective on the seriousness of life. The absolute pretentious grimness of very average people.
Requeim for a Dream drags you down for no apparent reason. It sits somewhere between Sid & Nancy and the blasé attitude that pervades party-drug culture today. It is as if Aronofsky is endlessly worried for the lonely mother and the sinking son, so much so that he forgot to portray multi-faceted characters and ended up with cardboard cut-outs for some educational purpose. Kinda like when a police man came to visit my class in 1995 and he told us that drugs are dangerous.
I've decided to never watch this film again. Since the year 2000 the world's gotten more complicated and yet, I can see some humor in it too.
It's one of those fascinating things, but drug users in Hollywood pictures are always tremendously handsome, pretty and have very good skin. I have come across a few junkies in my time. They always look rough. After repeated drug use they look really ill. Not in this film. I say Hollywood because Requiem for a Dream is far more a Hollywood picture, rather than some indie obscurity dealing with any sense of reality. I mean this in an aesthetic way, the look of this film is purposely doctored. Aronofsky was young, and the juvenile nature of his drug picture seems not only dated, but 10 years on, suffers from that deadly concoction of the 90's and the post-Fight Club picture variety.
Yes, this film deals with addiction. On many levels. It's not just street drug addiction, but prescribed drugs, consumerism, TV excess, prostitution, you name it, Aronofsky has a go. Requiem for a Dream is based on Hubert Selby Jr's novel. Selby Jr co-writes the script with Aronofsky. Selby Jr has the NY street notoriety thanks to Last Exit To Brooklyn, but one always feels he's a second rate William Burroughs. I just cant get over Selby Jr dealing with a script that now seems so contrived and cliched.
Fast picture editing and split screen is how Aronofsky tries to create a rhythm for this picture, but it only makes the picture more disjointed. The biggest problem is characterization. Again, these people are hard to feel anything for. Even Ellen Burstyn as Sara the mum addicted to diet pills and quiz shows, is shallow and cliched. As for Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly as the drug addicted couple always looking for a fix, it's endless 1000 yard stares and slack jawed expressions for the camera. One can't help watching Requiem for a Dream and think Leto is just auditioning for his crappy rock band videos. The thought of 30 Seconds To Mars (the name is a big clue) hangs over this picture in 2010.
So, time can be cruel. Watching this 10 years ago, it seemed powerful and deep. Its message, hey, modern life is rubbish and drugs are bad for you, comes from a very naive perspective. Aronofsky tries to conceal the lack of any real insight with camera tricks and effects which nowadays seem trite and cheap. Aronofsky followed this with the ridiculous The Fountain and the much liked The Wrestler. Is he a flash in the pan? Right now, Requiem for a Dream feels like overrated twaddle masquerading as profound cinema.