Requiem for a Dream
Jared Leto as Harry Goldfarb
Ellen Burstyn as Sara Goldfarb
Jennifer Connelly as Marion Silver
Marlon Wayans as Tyrone Love
Christopher McDonald as Tappy Tibbons
Mark Margolis as Mr. Rabinowitz
Louise Lasser as Ada
Marcia Jean Kurtz as Rae
Sean Gullette as Arnold the Shrink
Keith David as Big Tim
Ben Shenkman as Dr. Spencer
The film charts three seasons in the lives of Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), her son Harry (Jared Leto), Harry’s girlfriend Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly), and Harry’s friend Tyrone C. Love (Marlon Wayans). Each character is ultimately destroyed by addiction and self-delusion.
The story begins in summer. Sara Goldfarb, an elderly widow living alone in her Brighton Beach apartment, spends her time watching infomercials on television. After a phone call announces that she will be invited to be a participant on a game show, she becomes obsessed with matching her appearance to a photograph from Harry’s graduation, her proudest moment. In order to fit into her old red dress, the favorite of her deceased husband, she begins taking a regimen of prescription weight-loss amphetamine pills throughout the day and a sedative at night. The pills alter her behavior, but she passionately insists that the chance to be on television has given her a reason to live. Over the fall, however, her invitation does not arrive, and she begins to up her dosage, causing nightmarish hallucinations, where she is the principal subject of the game show.
Her son Harry is a heroin addict. Together with his friend, Tyrone, and his girlfriend, Marion — who are also addicts — he enters the drug trade in an attempt to realize their dreams. With the money they make over the summer, Harry and Marion hope to open a fashion store for Marion’s designs, while Tyrone dreams of escaping the street and making his mother proud. However, at the beginning of fall, Tyrone is caught in the middle of a drug gang assassination, and Harry uses the majority of the money they’ve earned to bail him out of prison. Meanwhile, because of the arrests and shootings of dealers, it becomes very hard to obtain any drugs, throwing Harry, Tyrone, and Marion into a state of deprivation. Growing more desperate, Harry convinces Marion to have sex with her psychiatrist in exchange for money, causing a rift in the relationship. The group continues to deteriorate as Marion begins prostituting herself and Harry’s arm becomes severely infected from improper injection technique.
With winter comes the final arc in the characters’ downward spirals. Sara’s sanity unravels after she visits the TV studio and she is put in a mental institution, where she undergoes painful electroconvulsive therapy. Harry and Tyrone travel to Florida, where they believe they can start over, but Harry’s deteriorating condition forces them to visit a hospital in South Carolina, where they are arrested. However, Harry is taken to a prison hospital because of his arm, which is amputated. Tyrone must deal with racist prison guards, hard labor, and drug withdrawal all alone. Harry has a recurring dream of Marion waiting for him at the pier at Coney Island, but awakens and realizes that he is alone, an arm amputated and in jail. Marion meets with a pimp, who makes her have sex with him for drugs and later at an orgy where she puts on a perverted show for heroin and cash.
Lost in misery, each character curls into a fetal position. In Sara’s dream, however, she wins the grand prize that the game show offers and meets Harry there. In her fantasy, Harry is a successful businessman, engaged to Marion. Mother and son hug and say how much they love one another through the cheers of the crowd and the glowing stage lights.
- In the United States, the film was originally tagged with an NC-17 rating by the MPAA due to a nude sex scene, but Aronofsky appealed the rating, claiming that cutting any portion of the film would dilute (if not outright destroy) its message. The appeal was denied, however, so Artisan decided to release the film unrated. An edited version of the film was released on video, rated R. This version had the sex scene shortened, but kept the rest of the movie identical to the unrated version. This R-rated version was only distributed in video store chains such as Blockbuster as well as some family-oriented department stores such as Target. The edited version contains an alternate title card, featuring the words “Requiem for a Dream Edited Version,” ensuring that the viewer is aware that the version they are watching is not the original.
- Jared lost 28 pounds for this role.