In a rare occurrence, the studio that produced Requiem for a Dream actually decided to not tamper with its director‘s work. The film got released, unchanged from its director’s cut. It would have originally received an NC-17 rating, meaning that many theaters likely would have refused to show it. At this point, releasing the film unrated seemed the best way to go about things. That is what they did, and in 2000, we got the final version of Requiem for a Dream, a film that will turn you off from using drugs.
It does this through the story that is told and the impact that the events have on its characters. It’s almost that simple. The story follows four different characters, each of which either has, or ends up with, a drug addiction. The story follows all of the characters and shows the struggle they have with their addictions, as well as the consequences they face because of their actions within the film.
The main character is Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto), a heroin addict. He steals from his mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn), in order to sustain that addiction. He takes her television at the beginning of the film, and sells it to a pawn shop; a regular occurrence, we are shown. Sara quickly buys it back, and it quickly becomes clear that this television is an incredibly important part of her life. She sits there, day after day, watching infomercial after infomercial. The final two characters are Harry’s friends, Marion (Jennifer Connelly) and Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). Marion and Harry are seemingly in love, and Tyrone is Harry’s best friend.
The most interesting, and touching story is the one of Sara. She doesn’t begin the film addicted to anything, but after getting a call from her favorite game show, she decides that it would be a good idea to lose some weight for her appearance. To do this, she goes on pills. The pills end up being addictive and harmful to her health. We watch her quickly begin spiraling out of control due to her usage. It’s surprisingly entertaining to watch an elderly woman go through what she does, but also incredibly sickening. Requiem for a Dream milks this for all it’s worth.
An emotional core is what is missing, but that doesn’t make it a bad film.
There are many scenes, especially towards the ending, where the film becomes incredibly difficult to watch. The characters are put through such difficult circumstances, and it is almost enough to make you turn away. The characters deserve an incredible amount of sympathy, just because of the things that happen to them over the course of the film. It focuses on these moments in time, giving you a view of what it is like to suffer from drug addictions.
There’s a problem here, though; none of the characters allowed me to care about them. They don’t make any real attempts to endear themselves to the audience. Yes, they are going through bad situations, and yes, it is heartbreaking by itself, and yet, I didn’t feel any attachment to any of the characters. I felt closest to Sara, because at least her situation didn’t seem to be solely her own fault. While all the characters did seem helpless against their addictions, the majority of them seem to have been brought upon themselves. This makes it hard to sympathize with them, as their addictions were something that, in a sense, they chose for themselves. They could have avoided their awful situations, but they chose not to.
Fortunately, not finding an emotional center doesn’t make the film worthless. In fact, had it done that, it would have been great. The actors were still all great in their roles, especially Ellen Burstyn as Sara. She’s a good actress, who seems to get put through a lot in the role she is given. The rest of the characters are great in their roles as well, and they all give you a good sense of what it would feel like to be in their situation. It’s just too bad that you aren’t given much reason to care for them.
“Drugs ruin lives” essentially sums up what Requiem for a Dream is about. It tells the story of four individuals, all of whom have their lives ruined by drugs. The characters are interesting and well acted but unfortunately failed to make me care about them. I get that the situation they find themselves in is tragic, but they never seemed to attempt to get out of it. Apart from Sara, all of their addictions were brought on by themselves. An emotional core is what is missing, but that doesn’t make it a bad film. It’s entertaining, and it has a good message, it just isn’t a great film.
Conclusion: Requiem for a Dream is disturbing but not emotionally impactful.
Recommendation: Requiem for a Dream is worth checking out.