This is not a film for the weak-stomached. This is a very real, gritty and non-glamorous look at drug abuse and a revelation of its many forms and faces. Darren Aronofsky does an impressive job directing a cast that doesn’t “wow” anyone in name (Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, Ellen Burstyn and Christopher MacDonald), but certainly does in performance, particularly Burstyn, who was nominated for an Academy Award for this role.
Harry Goldfarb (Leto) is a lazy ne’er-do-well breaking into the adulthood in Brooklyn who happens to have a little heroin issue. He’s been supporting his habit by stealing his mother’s television and selling it, only to have her purchase it back on a regular basis from the same resale vendor. Harry feels guilty, but not that guilty.
Harry’s in love with Marion Silver (Connelly), an aspiring designer with a teeeensy weeeensy cocaine addiction. In fact, he loves her so much, that he and his best buddy Tyrone (Wayans) decide that if they give this whole drug-dealing thing a whirl, they can put away enough money to open up a store for Marion and live the proverbial dream.
Of course, it’s not as easy as it looks. Harry and Tyrone have some devastating run-ins with the police and with some big-time dealers. Marion’s addiction drives her to desperate measures for a fix. Meanwhile, Harry’s mother Sara (Burstyn) is becoming dependent on diet pills in a fervent quest to fit into a red dress for an elusive television appearance. All of these characters hit rock bottom, revealing the true evil of drug addiction and how it spins lives out of control.
I know that Aronofsky’s directing style isn’t everyone’s favorite, but I think that this is one film that it fits. The actual use of the drugs isn’t glorified or even spotlighted. This is a story about what drug addiction does to people, not about people using drugs. These aren’t street rats who were born addicts. They are real people. They have dreams. I believe that this film can make people think twice before experimenting with drugs. It’s that powerful.
The highlight of this film is Burstyn, in all her glory. You’ll want to cry when she’s having coffee with Harry and speaking of her lonely life, filled with nothing but television and chatty Brooklyn biddies. This is why her quest for the red dress consumes her. The refrigerator gains a personality as she increases her dosage of the uppers. Christopher MacDonald plays an infomercial personality who acts almost as a spirit guide directing her throughout her quest. Her performance is absolutely dazzling.
As I mentioned above, this film is certainly not for the queasy. If you think you can handle some rather graphic images, I strongly recommend this movie; if for nothing else, for Ellen Burstyn’s superb performance.