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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Requiem For A Dream

Illustration for article titled Requiem For A Dream

Set in a bleak but stunningly realized New York where the periodic appearance of hope somehow seems to make everything worse, Requiem For A Dream stars Marlon Wayans and Jared Leto as junkies searching for that elusive big score. Ellen Burstyn co-stars as Leto's mother, a desperately lonely widow whose legal addictions to television, dieting, and a demonic self-help program (hosted by Christopher McDonald, that icon of sinister banality) parallel Leto's and eventually lead to a similarly debilitating addiction to diet pills. Darren Aronofsky's second film (after 1998's tremendously accomplished [Pi]), based on co-screenwriter Hubert Selby Jr.'s 1978 novel, is a relentlessly grim wallow in the depths of human misery, a film that doesn't so much ponder the void as plunge into it. It's also a gripping, uncomfortably intense tour de force that tops even [Pi] in terms of ambition and stylistic overload. A visual stylist of the highest order, Aronofsky is a student of the more-is-more school of filmmaking, and he piles on stylistic tricks in ways that would be laughable in the hands of a lesser filmmaker. For him, style and substance are hopelessly intertwined, and the film's rhythmic, hypnotic repetition provides a fitting visual equivalent to the rapturous, ritualized repetition of the junkies it depicts. But as brutal and raw as Requiem For A Dream is, it retains a shattering sense of humanity throughout, resonating with the contrast between the vulnerability of its characters and the cruelty of the world they inhabit. One of the most stylistically audacious films ever made—it features what was reportedly the most complex editing scheme in history—Requiem is at its best during its quiet moments, particularly during a heartbreakingly lucid monologue in which Burstyn reveals to her son the depths of her unhappiness and the frailty of her dreams. There are times when Requiem's unrelenting darkness begins to feel cruel and almost sadistic, but it's hard not to admire Aronofsky's vivid, uncompromising vision of a world where even madness is preferable to the misery of an unfeeling universe.

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