A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Alcoholics or drug addicts feel wrong when they don't feel right. Eventually they feel very wrong, and must feel right, and at that point their lives spiral down into some sort of final chapter--recovery if they're lucky, hopelessness and death if they're not.
What is fascinating about "Requiem for a Dream," the new film by Darren Aronofsky, is how well he portrays the mental states of his addicts. When they use, a window opens briefly into a world where everything is right. Then it slides shut, and life reduces itself to a search for the money and drugs to open it again. Nothing else is remotely as interesting.
Aronofsky is the director who made the hallucinatory "Pi" (1998), about a paranoid genius who seems on the brink of discovering the key to--well, God, or the stock market, or whatever else his tormentors imagine. That movie, made on a tiny budget, was astonishing in the way it suggested its hero's shifting prism of reality. Now, with greater resources, Aronofsky brings a new urgency to the drug movie by trying to reproduce, through his subjective camera, how his characters feel, or want to feel, or fear to feel.
As the movie opens, a housewife is chaining her television to the radiator. It's no use. Her son frees it, and wheels it down the street to a pawn shop. This is a regular routine, we gather; anything in his mother's house is a potential source of funds for drug money. The son's girlfriend and best friend are both addicted, too. So is the mother: to television and sugar. We recognize the actors, but barely. Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) is fat and blowzy in her sloppy house dresses; if you've just seen her in the revived "Exorcist," her appearance will come as a shock. Her son Harry (Jared Leto) is gaunt and haunted; so is his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly). His pal Tyrone is played by Marlon Wayans, who has lost all the energy and cockiness of his comic persona and is simply trying to survive in a reasonable manner. Tyrone suspects, correctly, that he's in trouble but Harry is in more.