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Requiem for a Dream (2000) star star star
Reviewed 2001-05-21: I was never impressed with Jared Leto in My So-Called Life, but I've changed my mind. In Requiem for a Dream his role was a complete downer -- and a great performance. The Second Look Reviewstory (based on a novel by Hubert Selby Jr.) takes place in a middle class drug culture in New York, but it may be surprising to see just who the drug addicts are. Ellen Burstyn plays Sara Goldfarb, who dreams of fitting into her red dress so she can appear on television. Harry Goldfarb, her son (Leto) along with his girlfriend Marianne (Jennifer Connelly) and Harry's buddy Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) dream of scoring drugs so they can open a business.

Personally, I think the distinction between legal and illegal drugs is an artificial one, supported both by hypocritical moralizers and profit-centered drug companies. In Requiem for a Dream the comparison was instructive -- and illustrated the destructive effects of both. Burstyn and Leto were the main draw in this film, but the supporting characters were well played, right down to the end as the dreams crumble: Marianne resorts to prostitution to support her habit and Tyrone goes to jail -- in the racist South.

If you can stand the intensity -- I was squirming during the last 20 minutes or so -- the reward is not just your run-of-the-mill anti-drug message, but an illustration of why incarceration is not the answer to drug addiction. Indeed, I was enraged by the southern doctor who sent Harry to the police instead of to treatment when his festering arm became critical. The dreams died in the drug-induced haze, but the message in Requiem for a Dream is clear.

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.