Requiem for a Dream – Movie Review Essay
Requiem for a Dream follows four main characters, whose lives spiral out of control on drugs. Sara Goldfarb, played by Ellen Burstyn, is the mother to Harry, played by Jared Leto. His girlfriend in the movie is Marion Silver, played by Jennifer Connelly, and Harry’s best friend is Tyrone (Ty), played by Marlon Wayans. All four of them start using drugs and then wind up in the cycle of addiction. Harry, Ty, and Marion realize they can make some serious money selling heroin, so they start and do quite well for a short time. Their stash of money keeps growing.
Marion is the only one who in the beginning questions the idea of selling, but she soon realizes she has access to an almost unlimited supply of heroin for herself. She snorts the heroin, whereas Harry and Ty mainline theirs. Now quickly about Harry’s mother, Sara Goldfarb: she is widowed, lives alone in a building with other senior women, and gets a call to go on an Infomercial Show she always watches on TV. When she submits her paperwork, she pulls out her favorite dress and realizes she needs to go on a diet. A friend suggests a local Doctor for diet pills and so begins Sara’s downward spiral, albeit on prescription speed.
By the end of the movie, all of the characters are deep in their addictions. Sara Goldfarb does so much speed she hallucinates. As the heroin in their community dries up, Harry and Ty head out on a trip to Florida to buy some more heroin. They don’t get too far, as Harry’s shooting arm is abscessed and he needs immediate medical attention. At the hospital he and Ty get arrested. The final scene in the movie for Ty shows him detoxing off of heroin in jail. Harry’s last scene is in a hospital, waking up his arm has been amputated.
Marion, who stays in New York, sells her body for a huge baggy of heroin, and in her last scene she is rolling up in the fetal position holding her dope. And finally, Sara Goldfarb, is institutionalized with a nervous breakdown, and receives electro-shock treatment. The last picture of Sara, she is in hospital garments, and has a blank stare on her face. Identification of the addictive substances used by movie characters and impact on behavior: The addictive substances in the movie are prescription amphetamines, sedatives, and heroin. There is also some sporadic marijuana use, although it is not the primary substance of ddiction. For the three young characters their drug of choice was heroin. There are scenes in the movie which associate the preparation of the drug, the dosing, and then a picture of the persons eyeball as their pupil dilates. For Harry and Ty there is a brief close-up image of a lighter, a metal cup with water begins to boil, a brief sight of a needle, and then the drug entering the vein. Since Marion ingests her heroin differently there is a brief picture of powder heroin, then a dollar bill rolled up, lines of heroin on a mirror, and then the sound of snorting as we see the heroin disappear.
This is followed with the camera zooming out and the audience can see the main characters lying on the floor in a drug-induced euphoria. Sara Goldfarb uses her prescription amphetamines, and similarly there is a close-up image of her taking the pills and then the camera focuses on her zipping around her apartment cleaning and such. At the end of the day she takes a different pill and quickly falls asleep in her chair. There is one scene where she is in bed and tossing and turning; obviously the sleeping pills had quit working and she has become unable to sleep. Critical Analysis:
A. Description of the messages in the movie that relate to substance abuse. The movie depicts substance abuse variously. For the three young characters their drug use seems recreationally fun; that quickly disappears as the characters find themselves addicted and strung out. For Sara Goldfarb, she does not want to go through the food diet to lose weight, so she turns to prescription amphetamines to lose weight. The message here is that a pill is a simple solution to a weight problem. All of the characters end up so deep in addiction that their lives are seriously changed.
Harry and his girlfriend end up losing their deep love connection because they both end up loving heroin more. Marion also ends up a prostitute, because she is so strung out and has no other way to pay for her habit. Ty ends up in jail. Harry ends up having his arm amputated because of the abscess on his arm from shooting up. And finally Sara Goldfarb, loses her mind as a result of her substance abuse; ending up in an institution receiving electro shock therapy to try and get her to respond. B. Description of the message the public gets about the pros and cons of drug use:
The public sees how casual drug use can end up as a serious addiction. The movie starts out with all of the characters using their drugs of choice to get the required effect. Even as their drug addiction gets worse, the consequences are not enough for the group to stop or even reduce their intake. When it becomes evident things are completely out of control they still do not seek help. One of the messages in the movie glamorizes drug dealing; that there exists a way to make a great deal of money with selling drugs.
This is true of our character Ty, who comes from nothing and has visions of running a drug ring, oozing money. Marion is a clothes designer, and comes from a wealthy family. She too is drawn into the misconception that there are no consequences from using and dealing drugs. Another message the public gets is that if women end up strung out, they can still get their drugs by trading sex for them. In the context of the movie, the scenes at the end where Marion was dancing for some high class clientele, this gives a glamorous illusion to drug addiction.
The mother, Sara Goldfarb, needs to lose weight. Instead of eating less and exercising, she chooses an easy way out by taking diet pills. The public sees this as confirmation that amphetamine pills are an okay substitute for weight loss. And finally the last message of drug abuse is given by Ty and Harry, whom both end up in jail. Ty stays and begins detoxing in jail; Harry is detoxing in the hospital after his arm is amputated. The message being serious damage can occur with drug addiction. C: Description of what the movie might teach other pharmacology students:
The information of the drug use in the movie corresponds greatly to the information on heroin and amphetamine use as discussed in Pharmacology class and also in the text, Drugs and Society, Hansen, et al. Pharmacology students could see the definitions of abuse and withdrawal from the text first-hand with this movie. The three main characters in the movie, all showed the signs of needing more and more of the heroin to get high. The amounts they were using in the beginning of the movie were small, comparatively.
In the end of the movie the three heroin addicts would begin going into withdrawal very soon after their last fix. In their withdrawal they would all get all worked up and take it out on one another. On page 232, the text mentions, “The effects of heroin and its withdrawal make addicts self-centered, demanding, impulsive, and governed by their ‘need’ for the drug”. This is also true of Sara Goldfarb. She begins using her diet pills and they seem to work for her for a while. Even her sleeping pills would put her to sleep.
Although in the end of her drug abuse, it was taking larger and larger quantities of the speed to get her going, and the hallucinogenic effects on her became evident. So too, can the above-mentioned text statement be true. The withdrawal of heroin on the main characters also corresponds to the text, and what has been discussed in class. Not everyone in the Pharmacology was present when we watched the movie Constant Craving; hence they could see the physical torment a heroin addict goes through in withdrawal.
On page 234, the authors write, “Within 12 to 24 hours after the last dose, the addict loses all of his appetite, vomits has diarrhea and abdominal cramps, feels alternating chills and fever and develops goose pimples all over. Powerful muscle spasms are some of the symptoms. ” This is most evident in Tyrone, who has to go cold turkey in jail and his last scene he is “kicking the habit”; he is cramped and his legs are flailing. For Sara Goldfarb, her experience is similar to that as outlined in the text on amphetamine addiction. She begins her day by taking her pills and then gets the “high” (p. 55). The text also speaks of the fact that amphetamines do not cause a physical dependence (p. 257). Her problems are more mentally detrimental than the physical withdrawal associated with amphetamine withdrawal. The effects on her mind include talkativeness, distrust of people, hallucinations, and psychosis (p. 267). This has also been discussed in class. In class and in the text it was mentioned that some injection drug users often have to find another vein when their chosen vein either collapses or becomes ulcerated or abscessed. Harry did not do this.
He chose to keep shooting in his abscessed arm. This kind of information is invaluable to Pharmacology students, whom can see the devastating effects that addicts go through in staying in their addiction. C. Critique of the information in the video and comparison with drug and alcohol messages in the media. In the media today there are mixed signals of drug use. It is often glamorized when someone creates an empire by selling street drugs and then moving up their social ladder. The movie shows this as well, as the two male drug dealers first begin to succeed in their venture to sell street drugs.
One of them even buys his mother a TV with some of his proceeds. The media also tends to highlight alcohol and drug use with a “party atmosphere”. For the people in the movie life was a “party” until their addiction got out of control. Another comparison that is evident is that using drugs is sexy for women. Marion has a great relationship with Harry turn into an even bigger and greater relationship once they begin using drugs together. This goes down the toilet as the drugs can no longer be found and she and Harry are not so happy together anymore.
Another message that is seen is that women prostitute themselves when their addiction is heavy. This is what happens to Marion when Harry leaves and she needs a fix. She knows one way she can get some heroin, and one guy who will give it to her. She need only trade her sex for it. D. Validity of Content: This video could be used for educational purposes; for prevention and for treatment. Since the information in the movie is accurate as far as heroin and amphetamine abuse goes, this would lend credence in using it in drug prevention.
Also since the main characters’ behavior changes so drastically when they become addicted, this too would be educationally useful for people to see. It shows the harrowing and often lethal effects of drug abuse, intravenously, orally, and snorting. This movie would also be useful in a supervised treatment setting as a useful educational tool, as it depicts the devastation effects that drug addiction has physically, mentally, and emotionally. It could be used in the treatment and prevention for both heroin and methamphetamine as the information is valid, and not at all misleading.