Powerful And Innovative (If A Little Overblown)
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 October 2013
Darren Aronovsky's 2000 film portrayal the dark underworld of self-destructive personal obsession, whether it be delusions of TV stardom or narcotic addiction, is a (mostly) stylishly made, innovative and powerful watch. Indeed, although I don't consider it a flawless work (its increasing obsession with special effects, for me, detract from its power and dreamy qualities) it is nevertheless one of the more impressive depictions of self-destructive human behaviour, alongside the likes of The Lost Weekend, Network, 16 Years Of Alcohol and (the most direct comparator and, for me, superior) Danny Boyle's Trainspotting. Particular praise should go to Aronofsky's visual sense, Matthew Libatique's brilliantly fast-moving and edited cinematography (with its frequent split-screen effects) and to Clint Mansell for his haunting and mesmerising score.
Acting-wise, the honours are, for me, stolen (almost entirely) by Ellen Burstyn, whose portrayal of suburban widow and TV (and, subsequently, slimming pill) addict, the gullible and increasingly manically obsessed (OCD) and desperate, Sara Goldfarb, is simply superb (albeit she also gets drawn into what is an increasingly OTT and gratuitous conclusion). Elsewhere, Jennifer Connelly is also impressive as Marion, the girlfriend of Jared Leto's Harry, Sara's waster son, who with Marion and partner-in-crime Marlon Wayans' Tyrone have devised a lucrative way of exploiting their drug paymasters. However, whilst Connolly is very convincing as the increasingly troubled, 'innocent little rich girl' whose descent into hell is the stuff of nightmares (I'll never be able to watch her innocent turn in Leone's Once Upon A Time In America in quite the same way again), for me, Leto and Wayans are rather clichéd and hence much less impressive. On the other hand Sean Gullet is excellent as Marion's nervy, creepy and coercive psychiatrist Arthur.
Although in Aronofsky's 'making of' documentary he defends his use of special effects as being restricted to only those necessary and relevant to his character development, for me, he does overstep the mark during the film's last 30 minutes (much as he does in Black Swan, in fact). Thus, whilst the (accelerated) sequences of Sara's obsessive housework marathon and the cleverly cut visual device signifying drug intake are both brilliantly done, the walking, chomping refrigerator becomes a little too comical. Still, it is an innovative film with an important message and, for those reasons at least, it should be commended.
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