Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky (Pi, The Wrestler)
Starring: Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Ellen Burstyn, Marlon Wayans
Called “one of the most disturbing movies ever made” by Entertainment Weekly, Requiem for a Dream is not for the weak of mind, spirit, or stomach. It follows the frenetic, spiraling demise of three Coney Island heroin junkies and a woman addicted to diet pills, in what has been lauded as the most accurate portrayal of addiction ever made. The strobe-like filming melts its viewers into what feels like a bad acid trip, as the characters’ simple dreams—a dress shop, a TV spot, a nest egg—slip further and further away.
Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly star as the (suspiciously good-looking) addicts whose hopes of a big score are slowly, painfully chipped away. Connelly and Leto’s initially sweet young love soon decays into prostitution and jail time.
Ellen Burstyn’s Oscar-nominated role as Leto’s elderly mother begins with a simple dream of being on her favorite television show; hope morphs into obsession and eventually into a pill-fueled hallucinatory nightmare in which her household appliances are closing in on her.
Directed by: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd
Where Requiem for a Dream never cracks a smile, Trainspotting is one seedy, yellow-toothed grin. Irreverent and chock-full of stellar performances, Danny Boyle’s early film documents the lives of a group of young Scottish heroin addicts. It features a killer soundtrack and one long sardonic monologue that begins, “Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television,” and ends with “I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?” This mantra has since graced the walls of college kids across the world, but it’s hard to argue that the film glamorizes drug use.
An emaciated, punked-out Ewan McGregor stars as the blue-collar Renton, who steals from his mother (and retirement homes) in order to feed his habit. He’s flanked by a troupe of equally grimy miscreants with names like “Sick Boy” and “Spud,” who spend their days brawling in bars and making weak passes at tart-tongued women.
The film is a sprawling, ugly series of anecdotes; at its lightest, we see Renton diving into “the worst toilet in Scotland” after lost suppositories; at its darkest, a baby dies from neglect; at its core, the film presses its fresh, jubilant face right up against the dirty, hairy underbelly of addiction.
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