Requiem for a Dream is directed by Darren Aronofsky, who scored a stunning 1998 debut with Pi, a low-budget indie flick with a restless camera that bent the world into new shapes. Requiem for a Dream, adapted from a 1978 novel by Hubert Selby Jr. (Last Exit to Brooklyn) by the author and Aronofsky, may be a bummer to some audiences, so harsh is its view of the drug culture. But no one interested in the power and magic of movies should miss it. Set in Brooklyn, on the streets of Aronofsky's native Coney Island, the film stars Jared Leto as Harry Goldfarb, a dreamer who wants to go into business with his pal Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). But when the business becomes drugs, the two men get hooked along with Harry's girl, Marion (a shockingly good Jennifer Connelly), who sells herself as a sex slave for a fix. Aronofsky, cinematographer Matthew Libatique and editor Jay Rabinowitz assault the senses with jump cuts, split screens and jarring, distorted images to show lives spiraling out of control. Leto, who lost twenty-five pounds for the role, excels by going beyond Harry's gaunt look to capture his grieving heart. His scenes with Ellen Burstyn as Sara, Harry's widowed mother, achieve a rare poignancy as son and mother drown in delusions. Fixated on appearing on a TV game show, Sara stuffs down diet pills so she can fit into a red dress she wore in her youth. The speed leaves her crazed by hallucinations — the scene in which Sara's refrigerator seems to break free of the wall to crush her is scarier than anything in The Exorcist. Burstyn gives an award-caliber performance that is as raw and riveting as the movie that contains it.
From The Archives Issue 466: January 30, 1986