Storywise, though, I do have some serious issues with the movie. Other than Ellen Burstyn's lonely Brighton Beach widower, the characters are a mite thin. And, alas, in the brutal last act of the film ("Winter"), Requiem contracts an unfortunate - but not quite terminal - case of the P.T.A's (as in Paul Thomas Anderson's - symbolic overkill, contrived plotting for the sake of multicharacter climax, and dense, unrealistic characterizations; for those of you who would rise to the defense of Magnolia's muse, I have four words: "I'm silently judging you." Please.) Plus, I don't want give anything away, but given how Aronofsky layers it on in the harrowing, seamlessly edited climax, you get the sense that heroin addicts are such an unlucky bunch that they probably should be on the lookout for falling meteorites.
Yet, despite these substantial problems, Requiem is a powerful, enthralling film that invites comparison with such downer classics as A Clockwork Orange and Taxi Driver. Two days later, I'm still mulling it over in my head. I'm not sure if I completely enjoyed it, but I do know I must recommend it. And Ellen Burstyn is absolutely brilliant - if she doesn't get the Oscar for this performance, I'm going to stop watching the awards. Update: Ok, that wasn't true.
[First appeared in Ghost in the Machine, 11/20/00.]