Monday, September 22, 2008

Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream

This is a performance that sits on the edge of supporting, yet it’s such a shocking role and delivery, a brilliant piece of acting, that it suddenly becomes the center of the movie and I honestly stopped caring about any other character in the film. It’s a crazy, Oscar-baity role in a movie that is dying to shock you. Don’t you just love a comeback? After 20 years, here she goes again, better than ever…
35 minutes and 36 seconds
36.8% of the film
Requiem for a Dream
The hopes and dreams of four ambitious people are shattered when their drug addictions begin spiraling out of control.
Hell, yeah:
Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Connelly; the crazy editing that sometimes actually works. Ellen Burstyn’s monologue is fabulous, the music is great, creepy & it stays with you.
Oh, no:
Requiem is ambitious, but it comes down with a student movie feeling attached to it. Don’t get me wrong, a great student movie, but still: the stories were a bit undeveloped, it felt rushed at times and the ending… well, rather predictable, I would have chosen something more sophisticated and less moral. And too much crazy editing bothers you at times.
Ellen Burstyn, as Sara Goldfarb
Here you have one of the greatest actresses of her generation (I mean it; go see The Exorcist again) on the top of her game. Of course the monologue helps but it’s Burstyn who does miracles with the character by giving us just the right amount of Sara, enough to create a small addiction to the character :) We want to see more of Sara, although it’s easy to predict that she’s not gonna end up well.
In a sentence, Sara Goldfarb is a nice old widow trying to lose weight because she’s dreaming of appearing on a TV show; she starts taking the wrong pills and insanity is just one step away. The character suffers a full transformation during the 90 minutes of the film. In the beginning, we see Sara as being either childishly excited about her future TV appearance or upset about the fact she’s not losing any weight. Anyone who’s ever been on a diet (I subscribe) knows how obsessive that feels.
Burstyn portrays Sara as any other mother or grandmother out there, she nails the gestures of a simple woman trying to enjoy what’s left of life. Her forced optimism is heartbreaking and it betrays the deep emotional wounds of this woman. As the monologue scene unravels, we realize the immense tragedy of the lonely woman getting old.
We know from the start that her son is no good and that her husband has died. Yet it’s not until this scene we notice the true loneliness of Sara. I recommend you watch the scene again on youtube. It’s the monologue on loneliness.
So her son comes to visit, and she’s already taking drugs and losing it a bit, but to the people outside she seems normal. It’s the last scene before the character sinks full speed into madness. First Sara is very happy to see her son, but provoked by him, she starts explaining her unhealthy devotion to small think like losing weight or the neighbor’s opinion.
I’ve got no one to take care of, she says while breaking down. Burstyn is great in this highly vulnerable moment. It’s an explanation of the tragedy of getting old. She perfectly balances the tears, her eyes show the deep fear of the character that has been abandoned by her son and husband. She has nothing to live for, except for this cruel promise that she’s gonna be on TV.
The scene is played with such experience that I was instantly moved, I listed and understood every word Sara said. It’s a powerful scene and a moment in the performance that changes ones real life perspective on a matter like this one.
Monstrous thing getting old; that’s what I thought. And Burstyn is there, doing more than justice to the character. She gives a smile, yet keeping the tears, an attempt of the character to cheep on when it’s obvious that everything around her is crumbling. An Oscar moment, if there ever has been one.
Then, from Sara’s perspective, the movie takes a horror turn. You can feel it even starting with the camera shots. She’s losing her mind and the fears and the desires come mixing with the real life.
She’s scared, not able to separate the fantasy from the reality. Sara is like a child scared by the monsters. We like her, we want her to get better. But we know she won’t.
Aronofsky is a sadist son a bitch. He makes us see her reaching the lowest of the low. We don’t want to look, but we can’t help it.
I just wanted to be on the show, she tells the producers. Her monstrous look certainly helps the performance. Burstyn doesn’t hold back in portraying the magnitude of insanity.
It’s very very dramatic as we know how normal she was at the beginning, before the pills stepped in. It’s a tragedy, yet something magic for any movie fan interested in seeing an actress going for it without any self-control.
A bold performance, if there has ever been one. It could have seemed unnatural, comical in some way, but it’s done perfectly by Burstyn who understands the real tragedy of the character. There photos as just as heartbreaking by themselves.
A performance not (just) because it’s showy, but because it’s deeper then what you might remember and it was brave for Burstyn to take the role. And she did magic with it.
Add to Technorati Favorites

No comments: