Requiem for a Dream (review)

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Never before have dreams died in so nightmarish a manner. Crumbling Coney Island has spawned heroin junkie Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto: American Psycho), whose mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn), stumbles through her own unendurable life with the help of her addictions: chocolate, TV, coffee. As Harry, his girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly: Waking the Dead), and his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) plan to move up in the world as drug dealers, Sara is galvanized by her belief that she’s going to be a game show contestant. But Harry and Co. consume more than they sell, and Sara gets hooked on diet drugs in her quest to look fab on the tube. Director Darren Aronofsky, who also adapted Hubert Selby Jr.’s novel, proves with his second feature that his first, Pi, was no fluke — yet he also proves that he has yet to balance style and substance. As the mean, cruel, real world dissolves into even meaner, crueler druggie dreams, Aronofsky uses every filmmaker’s trick he can conjure up to drag us into a surreal world of TV infomercials, aggressive pastries, open needle sores, and the greasy, sweaty craving for a fix. A little restraint goes a long way — Sara’s vicious refrigerator, growling and threatening to attack, is absolutely terrifying, but too often the altered states of our anti-heroes are little more than prettily ugly. Still, what’s mostly satisfyingly unpleasant turns, in its last half hour, into one of the most disturbing pieces of film I’ve ever seen — if Aronofsky set out to make Trainspotting look like Teletubbies, he succeeded. Recommended only for those with extremely strong stomachs.

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