Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans, Jennifer Connelly and Ellen Burstyn all star in this incredibly painful film about four people who are chemically dependent. When the film begins, the first three folks are all using heroin yet seem to be reasonably functional. Over the course of the film, their lives begin to disintegrate badly. At the same time, Burstyn plays an older woman who becomes addicted to amphetamines because of an irresponsible doctor who tosses out pills like candy...and she goes from a relatively normal lady to someone who seems like she's crossed over the line from sanity to oblivion.
"Requiem for a Dream" is an exceptional movie and there's nothing else like it. However, it's a film that I am happy did not spur on other similar films, as it's also a visual assault on the senses and very difficult to watch...and I would hate to see film after film made like this Darren Aronofsky project. Using rapid intercutting (far, far more than normal) of scenes, fisheye lenses, exaggerated sound effects, shaking lenses, multipanes, television characters that come popping out of the screen and other strange gimmicks, he makes the viewer feel as if they, too, are stuck in the throes of addiction and, eventually, insanity! It's mesmerizing as well as unpleasant...and it's appropriately so considering the subject matter. In fact, I don't think a better film has ever been made about the hellishness of addiction...it sure captures it in all its vivid awfulness!
In addition to the incredibly clever use of all these films techniques, the movie has a lot going for it. The script, though very episodic, works well...and is made all the better thanks to some amazing performances, particularly by Burstyn. My only complaint about the film, and it's very minor, is that Jennifer Connelly is just way too pretty to be playing a woman who is that addicted. Sure, over time she falls apart...but she still looks model beautiful during most of the film. She would have been better looking skankier...or an uglier actress might have worked better!
So who would I recommend should see this film? Well, anyone who loves films and longs for something different should certainly see the film. Also, despite all the nudity, violence, vomiting and nastiness, I actually recommend parents consider showing it to their kids (especially if the teens have begun dabbling in drugs or thing it looks cool or fun). It will do far more to discourage them from using drugs than any pat message or sermonizing!! It shows drugs in all its sleazy awfulness....no holds barred. I challenge you to find a film THIS difficult to watch and effective when it comes to presenting the effects of drugs. I am not sure how the film received an R rating, as it seems more like something that should be NC-17. Horrible to watch...especially as the film progresses, so don't say you weren't warned!! By the end, I was in tears...
I should note that the Etc (electro-convulsive therapy) they show in the film is similar to the type done decades ago. They do NOT do shock treatment like this today and it is a relatively benign sort of treatment for folks who simply won't respond to other treatments for depression...thank goodness.