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"Just say no" all over again.
Do you remember that "your brain on drugs" PSA where a girl smashes an egg with a skillet, and then proceeds to destroy the whole kitchen while shouting "This is what heroin does to your family! This is what it does to your career!". No explaining how exactly heroin works and why exactly it is dangerous. Just scaring us, that's all.

Now imagine this commercial, only an hour and a half long, and you'll have an idea of what "Requiem for a dream" is. It's bad, it's boring, it's needlessly graphic and has the subtlety of a sledgehammer. It has four characters, and we cannot actually identify with any of them. Sure, Jared Leto is pretty, I get that, but seriously, that's the only reason? And that's not the only problem with this movie. Darren Aronofsky often tells us his movies are realistic and tell us about real life. Bullshit. "Requiem..." has absolutely nothing to do with real life. First of all, heroin does not dilate pupils, but that's a minor offense, really. The scene of forced feeding is hilarious. What, the hospitals don't have IV glucose anymore? ECT without anesthesia? Bullshit! And when Leto's character continues to inject heroin in the very same spot? Look, junkies are probably not the brightest people on earth, but they are NOT THAT STUPID. And the doctor that refuses to treat him? Bullshit as well. So if yiu want a movie about drugs, "Requiem" is probably the worst choice you can make. It's preachy and pretentious without any real depth, it tries to impress you with stylish shots and unnecessary gore and music, but has no substance. 90 minutes and millions of dollars wasted to make a "Just say no" commercial.
  # comments: 7
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Not as Terrible as Haters Want to Believe, Not as Revolutionary or Nuanced as the Filmmakers Want You to Believe
I don't know what I was expecting when I finally peeled the DVD from its red Netflix envelope but I know what everyone around me was prepping me for. It's impossible to discuss certain films without discussing the expectations late-comers (such as I) have when we finally get around to viewing them and Requiem for a Dream qualifies as one of those for me. I was told only to expect its message to be blunt and that there would be no uplifting, inspirational ending. I was instead supposed to find only a soul-crushing agony awaiting me at this end of this movie. So evaluating those two claims...

The film's position regarding its subject matter is completely clear. What doesn't happen however is anyone outright saying "Drugs are bad — all drug usage will lead to this and this is beyond bad". So in terms of it's anvilciousness... I've seen worse. The closest anyone approaches is when Harry's character reproaches his mother for using diet pills to usurp her feelings of worthlessness and loneliness but then that's undermined immediately when he gets high directly upon leaving her home just so he can cope with what his mother's allowed herself to become. If anvilciousness can be negated by nuance, then I would consider that done because that scene to me immediately shows that the nature of addiction is so pervasive that even a character who is capable of recognizing the emotional crutch addiction has become for an another character cannot even recognize that in himself just mere moments later. So, like I said, there have been worse.

And as for its soul-crunch... fairly valid. The movie knows Sara's character constitutes the most pitiful victim and that's why it ends with her (and her actress does a damn fine job of making you desperately want to make her right again). As for the other characters... that's a little more give and take.

But one thing that absolutely must be mentioned before I get cut off - Clint Mansell's score is phenomenal. I'd never heard what (apparently) is a very famous composition (Lux Aeterna) from this film but the second it came on, I was in love with it. It's a great composition that really highlights the constant raising of stakes for the characters and the greater and greater peril they're in from their addiction.

So in summary, slightly over-wrought but still definitely worthwhile.
  # comments: 1
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Drugs R Bad
This movie is a lot like its theme tune Lux Aeterna: repetitive and over-wrought. The movie wants to illustrate that drugs are bad, a message so obvious that it doesn't really need conveying.

The movie's main failing is that it struggles to deliver that message as well as it could have, despite its simplicity. We are shown the downfalls of drug abuse through four over-ambitious characters who attempt to use drugs to get where they want in life. The problem is that none of these characters are remotely likeable or identifiable. They're unpleasant to the point that you expect the worst to happen to them, and aren't all that bothered when it does. It would have been a far more meaningful and emotional experience if I was given a protagonist I could like, instead of the argumentative, whiney, self-centred jerks we got. The movie uses these characters as cautionary tales, and proceeds to bash you over the head with the idea that drugs are bad over and over. That proves ineffectual. Heck, even this youtube video does cautionary tales better.

As mentioned above, I don't see why this movie needed to be made. We already know that drugs are bad. For a movie to successfully point out this truism, it must do it in an interesting and unusual manner. Requiem played it straight, and we got a boring, unenjoyable movie out of it. I watched it back to back with another anti-drug movie called Spun, which was an indy comedy. I found Spun to be a far more engaging film because it took its anti-drug message and did something interesting with it, resulting in a suprisingly effective climax. My advice? Watch Spun. Watch Trainspotting. Watch Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Watch any of those over Requiem For A Dream. They all convey the same message better, and in a far more nuanced fashion.

Oh and PS. I hate the theme tune. The only thing that makes it worse is the way it gets overused in every amateur youtube video that wants to be dramatic, along with "Let The Bodies Hit The Floor".

  # comments: 9
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