Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day Twenty-Five: Requiem for a Dream

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #61
Year: 2000
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Ellen Burstyn and Jared Leto

I know I'm going to be lambasted for this one, and told I "don't get it," and accused of letting my emotions get in the way of judging this movie objectively. And that's all fair, but it doesn't change the fact that I hate this movie. I've gone on rants about it before, and they usually leave my opponents very awkwardly stunned into silence. Know that I don't pretend to be objective when I talk about Requiem for a Dream. I am incapable of that. Instead, I'll try to shine some light on why this movie so heinously offends me, and why I refuse to ever watch it again.

Darren Aronofsky is no slouch as a cinematographer. His movies are pure eye candy, and Requiem for a Dream is no exception. There's dozens of gorgeous shots of dilating pupils, liquid moving through syringes, and drug-induced insanity taking hold on the faces of addicts. If this movie was a collection of photographs with no story running through it, I might actually like it. Unfortunately, it does have a story, and it's the story of three people who become so irrationally fixated on illegal drugs that they become completely irredeemable caricatures of drug users. And we're supposed to sympathize with their problems.

Here's my beef with that: There are literally hundreds of opportunities on their way to the film's climax that our protagonists (And I hate calling them that, because I fucking hate all of these characters and did not root for them for one second) could have looked at the shambles their lives were in and just stopped doing drugs. But they didn't. They kept going. When Jared Leto's character looks at the bloodied mess his arm has become from constant heroin injections, his buddy tells him how bad it looks and suggests that maybe he shouldn't shoot more heroin into it. But he does. He shoots more heroin into it, and, SPOILER ALERT, he ends up losing the arm. This is ridiculous to me. There's no need for it to end up that way. By the end of the movie, I didn't want these people to be coddled in rehab; I wanted them to go to jail because people who walk through life constantly fucked-up deserve to be behind bars. (As a sidenote, Travesty Week is making me sound like a devil conservative. Environmental message? Travesty! Drug users getting off without jail time? Travesty! I think I'm going to need to watch some Olbermann to come down from this...)

But all that isn't even why I hate the movie. Here's where this gets personal, and where it becomes clear that I could never write an objective review of this movie. I had a friend growing up who was incredibly bright and could have done anything he wanted to do with his life. Then he started doing drugs. Everyone tried to get him to stop, urging him to pull his life together because he'd never amount to anything if he didn't pass his classes and graduate. He didn't care; he just kept doing more and more drugs. By his senior year, he had started skipping school at least twice a week, and he barely ended up graduating – he wasn't even allowed to walk at the commencement ceremony. He had several run-ins with the law for drug possession and DUI which resulted in him losing his license. He had countless opportunities to drop the habit and make something of himself, but he didn't give enough of a shit. No one forgave him. And he fucking loves Requiem for a Dream. It's like he doesn't understand the irony. To a less extreme degree, he is these characters. When I watch this movie and I see these characters ruin their lives of their own free will, I think about this friend, and it makes me sad and angry. That's really why I can't watch this movie, and why I sound like a militant D.A.R.E. officer when I try to talk about it.

So is it a good movie? It may well be, but I can't see past how angry it makes me, and how much I hate its characters. I don't fault Darren Aronofsky here. He made the movie he wanted to make, and executed it presumably quite well. It's just that the movie he wanted to make is morally reprehensible to me – and I'm not a guy with a narrow moral code. If you love this movie, consider yourself lucky, because you obviously have never lost someone close to you to drugs.

The Good: Cinematography is gorgeous.

The Bad: I can't watch it.

The Skinny: Couldn't tell you if it belongs or not. It blurs my vision. It clouds my judgment. It makes me punch things. I don't want it on the list because when I watch movies, I usually want to have someone to root for. I didn't care if these characters died or went to jail or faced any other nasty consequences. I just didn't enjoy one second of this movie. Sorry, folks.


  1. I don't hate this movie as much as I hated it when I first saw it. I sort of understand why it's on THE LIST, but if I had to choose, it wouldn't be there.

  2. I'm with you on this one Brad and this movie is overrated. I never felt anything but, disgust for these characters.

  3. Fuck this indie overrated piece of shit. I wanted Pops from Wayans Bros to come in and slap the shit out of Marlon for such shitty acting and being a shitty character. This movie licks so many assholes, it's a scat porn queen.

  4. The movie is grotesque and VERY hard to watch at times. The characters are treated brutally throughout. But, remember, stuff like this actually DOES happen.
    Eh, travesty week isn't turning out to be my fave I want you to get back to reviewing movies rather than purposefully mocking well-respected ones.

  5. When I first saw this movie I was mesmerized by its drama. This movie has quite a fitting cast -- even Marlon Wayans. The direction is overly stylized. You had it right with "eye-candy." However, this movie is shite because it is too unrealistically dramatic. Aronofsky's style exacerbates this. The real problem of this movie is the message: drug users are desperate and hopeless people ///or/// not even once. The movie fails horribly on the plausibility scale -- every doctor would lose their license, sex for smack is nothing like it was portrayed (those jobs are for hookers), nobody sticks a needle in a wound, and prisons don't utilize forced labor. Having a decent understanding of drugs and drug culture would make anyone choose to reject it entirely.