No disrespect to queen Julia, but by far, the finest performance by a leading actress in a motion picture released in the year 2000 — the most technically difficult, the most nuanced, the most heartbreakingly human — was that given by Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream. Anyone who has seen the movie knows this. Unfortunately, few people saw the movie.
Well, it’s about drugs. Rather, it’s about our craving for the highs that promise no tomorrow (whether the specific addiction is diet pills, heroin, or daytime television) and the damage that gets wreaked today. Since most of American popular culture is predicated upon extending that bittersweet high, ”Requiem for a Dream” is clearly a must to avoid for anyone scared of having their buzz harshed.
Your loss. Based on Hubert Selby Jr.’s unsparing novel and filmed in a brilliantly kinetic style that director Darren Aronofsky (”Pi”) correctly calls ”hip hop montage,” ”Requiem” follows three sweet young junkies (Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans, all unexpectedly superb) and an aging, speed addicted widow (Burstyn) as they spiral gladly, sadly down through the seasons of one year. The wham bang editing delivers the pleasures of the rush; the quieter moments hint at the love that addicts of every kind devoutly wish for. Wisely left unrated (it would have been branded NC-17), it’s a movie that should be shown in every high school — and every acting class — in the country.