#83: Requiem for a Dream (2000)

When and how did I watch this?

November 11th, 2016, on a friend’s flash drive.

Had I seen this film already?


What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Drug induced shenanigans.  The title doesn’t give much away, either.

What do I know about it now?

I’ll never forget Sara Goldfarb.  Oh, you don’t know her?  She was on TV, and she won the grand prize.

Cue the tears. I’ve never been simultaneously so rattled and horrified and moved in any film on this list.  I want to move beyond the editing and sound and visual effects of the film, not because they weren’t mind-blowing and spectacular, because there are few films like this one in those aspects, but because the story is NOT some drug-fueled orgy/violence/trip-out fest, but insanely more. As you might imagine, getting wasted is never glorified, but one could easily turn this into an elongated piece of D.A.R.E. propaganda, and the film never approaches that corner.  Instead, it leaves us sputtering down a maddening, dark road with no headlights, wondering what happened to these people, and how they will manage henceforth. I cared about most of them — particularly Sara, a widowed hard-luck victim of a con job, first by a corny television ad, and then by a manipulating quack.  Her delusion and her desire to become someone — even just to her own son — is her true addiction, and her life is ultimately ruined because no one is there to say she’s loved. Her son is no better, chasing empty dreams and one last high, trying to make it big once and for all. Marion is pure emotion: not getting the satisfaction from her boyfriend or any sexual endeavors, she falls in love with drugs and does the unspeakable in order to get them.  Tyrone is sort of buried in all this, but his story is equally compelling; his mother, presumably dead, is the only person that can fill the void, and he also pursues drugs and sex to make his life feel worthwhile. The film finishes with all of them in various states of disrepair, all in bed in the fetal position.  Brilliant.

What are some themes in the film?

Addiction and rationalization, love/lust, dreams, empty nest/widowing, racism (mildly)

Did this affect me personally?

Many of the more lurid scenes ran like one’s dream sequences.  The most profound one is Sara’s loss of sanity — the television coming to life in her living room and the refrigerator’s descent upon her — which I found absolutely terrifying in all the right ways.  I stood up and applauded at this scene’s conclusion.  It’s hard to forget the ONLY actual shooting-up in the film. Wow.

Why is this ranked #83?

It’s the most effective of the “drug movies” (Trainspotting and Casino come to mind immediately), with far more compelling characters. It’s a little more recent and features tremendous editing.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She thought it was like a train wreck.  Many of the scenes made her uncomfortable; she’ll probably never watch it again.

Would I watch it again?

I would.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Some of the sequences are challenging for Christians.  The sexual content is very intense and graphic, and some of the profanity can get under your skin. It’s not for the weak-stomached, but if you give it a shot, you’ll never go back.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

It doesn’t fit into the “great” genre like those on the AFI or Rotten Tomatoes lists. I think the content and style can block serious critics from giving it a nod, but it’s important to recognize the symbolism and character development presented in the film. Throw in the stunning details and subtleties, and it appears great.

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