Movies that feel like they’re running commentaries on society are hit and miss. Many of them fail to reach their own intensely high expectations or visions, while others manage to perfect their message through intense directing choices and unique tones that stretch through the whole of the movie. Darren Aronofsky has proven his worth with solid outputs in Black Swan and The Wrestler, but Requiem for a Dream is his best piece yet. A shattering shake-up of conventional filmmaking, mixed with quips and notes on the regression of society.
Finally finding a strong Jared Leto performance proved more difficult than I had first expected. His role here as Harry Goldfarb may be his most interesting and enjoyable role in quite some time. The only other example I can think of for a solid Leto performance is his forgettable presence in Lord of War. Leto plays a heroin addict turned drug runner, who tricks his mother and by extension, those around him, into thinking he’s successful. He’s praised for his business skills and how his life is in order, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Harry’s addiction to heroin reflects well with his mother’s obsessive addiction to television. Comparing drug abuse with commercials was a well-placed metaphor, one that devolves in entertaining fashion as the movie wanes on.
It’s not just Leto that provides a surprisingly strong performance though, as comedian Marlon Wayans brings out a career best supporting performance. To be fair when compared to the other outputs of his career thus far, his performances in White Chicks and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra would be easy to topple. He’s not the only stunning supporter, with Ellen Burstyn’s role as Sara Goldfarb being one of the most intriguing and impressive pieces of character building I’ve seen in a long while.
Burstyn’s role is bursting with paranoia as she prepares herself for her big television break. A break which drives her psychotic, and the focus on her spiral into paranoia and the irony between her and her son’s equal addictions is buttered up nicely throughout the entire movie. It creates a vacuum for commentary on society, addiction, television culture and the nature of stardom. For the most part, Aronofsky’s direction holds it all together in tremendous fashion.
A thoughtful and brutal look at contemporary issues that may affect us all, Requiem for a Dream is both entertaining and thought provoking. A stellar cast leads the way for some superb direction from Aronofsky and a score that will resonate more than you could possibly imagine. A real great movie on the whole, one that will be the peak of Aronofsky’s and Leto’s career for quite some time.