DON’T DO DRUGS. There you go, just saved you an hour and three quarters. Except that’s just the thing, although this film can be summed up in just three little words, it’s still an exceptional piece, just thoroughly depressing and cautionary. Easily the reason I’ve never so much as even picked up a joint, this film should be mandatory viewing in schools and rehab centres the world over, with every step taken by the four leads taking them further down a spiral they really don’t want to see the end of. Firstly, there’s Jared Leto’s slacker Harry, living day-to-day by repeatedly stealing and selling his doting mother’s television with best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans, surprisingly good) in order to buy drugs. Harry’s girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) is a promising fashion designer, but occasionally must turn tricks when money runs low, and Harry’s mother Sara (Ellen Burstyn, Julia Roberts has your Oscar) lives alone, glued to her television, unable to deal with the direction her son has taken.
The film is at times incredibly hard to watch (double-ended dildo, anyone?) but when you do it’s nothing short of a cinematic goldmine, with director Darren Aronofsky’s editing and Clint Mansell’s spot-on score fitting the addiction-addled characters lives perfectly. Fish-eye lenses, split-screen, sped-up/slow-down footage and cameras strapped to actors focussed on their faces as they flee from the mess they’re in are all used perfectly. Compare this to Happy Together, where these same devices were used just for the sake of it, to show the director could, and you can really see how relevant they are here. Also, compare the editing, especially that of drug hits; rapid shots of syringes depressing and eyes dilating, with similar edits in Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. The two use very similar techniques, but with wildly different effects.
I felt the three youngsters should have been scrawnier and more blemished than they were, with Wayans and Leto especially being far too muscular than I’d expected a junkie to be. The storytelling though is excellent, with actions truly speaking louder than words, most shots consisting of close-ups or POV.
I had a couple of “Hey, it’s him” moments: Crash’s Keith David is a lecherous ‘party’ host, Spiderman’s Dylan Baker a Southern doctor and Office Space’s Ajay Naidu is Sara’s mailman. Also, Christopher McDonald needs some recognition for playing almost the same sleazy TV scumbag he played in Quiz Show.
Choose film 9/10