Requiem and Possible Character Motivations Part II

26 Apr

By the time the movie get rolling, all four of our main characters are already suffering from addiction.  Sara is addicted to television, bad food, and eventually a combination of amphetamines for weight loss and depressants to sleep.  The three other characters consume heroin, cocaine, pills–pretty much whatever they can get their hands on.  Each character is consumed by their drugs–getting money, obtaining the product, and enjoying the fix.  They spend the entirety of their time caught in the cycle of searching out drugs then doing them for the duration of the movie.  We don’t really know what they were like prior to their selfish drug use, and we are not explicitly told how each of them reached out to drugs in the first place.  I want to theorize why each of them turned to drugs to better understand the film itself.

Sara Goldfarb (played by Ellen Burnstyn)

The character wears a matronly wardrobe, sits home alone watching TV in her antediluvian apartment, and gossips in the sun.  These clues lead us to believe she is the embodiment of a typical housewife that is stuck in the past.  Sara’s husband has died, leaving her alone, and she cannot move past this.  Focusing on the infomercial and dreaming about being on TV are ways for Sara to escape the reality that her life is not that way she had imagined it would be.  We see her watching the same infomercial peddling weight-loss pills continuously portraying her sense of apathy toward her situation.  Sara is most likely using the television to distract herself from her problems, rather than dealing with them.

And the biggest problem is that Harry is not only a full-on heroin addict, but stealing from her to get drugs, and dealing as well.  Characteristic of an enabler, Sara loves her son so much that she repeatedly bails him out (buying the TV back again and again is one example).  She also ignores signs of trouble, and avoids confronting him about his drug use.   She can’t see that the reality regarding Harry is far different than her hopes for him.  As a mother, Sara wants her son to be successful (employed), have his own family, and treat her with decency.  There is a disconnect between what Sara wants to see in Harry and what behaviors he displays around her.

As Harry’s drug abuse becomes more and more evident, Sara’s denial becomes more pervasive.  Instead of addressing Harry’s heroin use head on or even acknowledging it–she prefers instead to believe in her own hopes for her son.  To further distract herself from the truth, Sara’s addictions start to aggrandize.  She becomes fixated on fitting into a special red dress and getting on TV.  This new endeavor is all-consuming.  I would guess Harry’s addiction has played a part in her own new amphetamine/depressant addiction.  Sara is really attempting to forget that she has no real relationship with her son.

Harry Goldfarb (played by Jared Leto)

By the time we meet Harry there is nothing left to his personality but the hunger for drugs.  He does not care about his mother’s feelings, as evidenced by the repeated pawning of her beloved television for drug money.  The reasons why Harry got involved with drugs are especially unclear.  While his mother is devastated with the loss of  her husband, Harry doesn’t seem particularly sad about the death of his father.  We also do not have a clear idea of Harry’s emotional woes that may have led him to addiction.  The audience gets the impression he may well have been the first of the four to get involved with illegal substances.  He is the farthest out of control of any of them, and has no goals, and seemingly little remorse fro his actions.

His best friend is merely someone who helps him concoct schemes to get drugs and money–the relationship is superficial.  The audience isn’t told how the friends met, but it is safe to assume it had something to do with the drug underworld.  Sure, Harry bails Tyrone out of jail, but is it because they are close friends, or because Tyrone has the connections to the drugs?

Harry’s relationship with his girlfriend is also far from deep.  He is seen encouraging her to pursue a garment business, but never addresses her drug-fueled capriciousness that is counter to that goal.  He has some spacey talks with Marion, but the film does not show any common interests the two share aside from their drug use.  Harry doesn’t seem to entertain the thought of marriage with Marion–it seems like she is just another person to do drugs with, and later a resource for getting the scare drugs.  Harry does not have any aspirations beyond getting a big enough score to make a lot of money.

Part of being an addict is a certain selfishness–the drugs take over the personality entirely–and Harry’s character seems to fall in line with this.  His feeble attempts at redemption include an empty promise to visit his mother more, a new TV bought out of drug money, and apologetic mumblings to his girlfriend.  Aside from being a source of disappointment, longing, and hope for Sara as well as a catalyst for Marilyn’s fall into prostitution, Harry doesn’t have a big role in the movie (despite being the center character that connects everyone else).  In the climactic scene of the movie, the viewer learns that Harry has (stupidly) been shooting up in the same site on his arm the whole time, and now the flesh is necrosing.  Even his end consequence seems extraordinarily avoidable, and is a relatively light punishment.

Tyrone (Marlon Wayans)

His character is not exactly fleshed out either.  We know little of his dreams or aspirations, and even less of the girl he is seen having sex with.  We do not not if she’s a one night stand or his wife.  She seems much less important to him than the drugs or money.  Mostly, Tyrone is portrayed as Harry’s helper.  It may have been Harry to introduce Tyrone to drugs even.  The film shows Tyrone engaging in the physically hard labor of pushing a TV down the sidewalk a long distance with his friend.  This symbolizes how he has pushed his dreams aside and is pushing drugs with Harry which is pyysically taking its toll.

The fact it is Tyrone that has most of the drug connections could mean that Tyrone has been involved in the drug underworld the longest.  He might have racial and economic motivations for starting drugs in the first place.  As a black person, he may have grown up in a bad neighboorhood.  He might have missed out on opporotunities, because of his skin color.  We never see a father figure, or anyone in his family aside from Tyrone’s mother.  She may have had to work long hours to support his when he was younger, and he could have gotten involved with drugs at that time.

The fact Tyrone reminisces about his mother who loves him just the way he is gives us insight into his personality.  It shows his loyality, which is displayed in the drug world, and with Harry time and again.  It also portarys a certain immaturity.  A drug user is said to stop maturing once they begin using, because the drug is the quick fix for all problems.  The user stops using any coping skills, instead turning to the drugs for support and happiness.

While Harry’s character feels empty, Tyrone seems to be slightly more conscious of impending doom (because of ethnicity).  It is he who sees firsthand a prime (Asian) drug dealer get shot in the head.  He seems to be in the middle of the race wars between drug dealers on the streets.  When the boys head south to find drugs, it is Tyrone who suffers the racial consequences of that trip.  He is clearly marginalized in the hospital waiting room, and this continues in prison.  The guards taunt and abuse him because he is black.  In the climax of the film, Tyrone is shown doing hard labor in prison while detoxing–a symbol of all the overabundance of African Americans put in jails for drugs.

Marion (Jennifer Connelly)

The first scene where Marion and Harry sneak onto the rooftop, and where she pulls the fire alarm for thrills captures her reasoning for messing around with drugs and with Harry–boredom combined with rebellion.  Her privileged upbringing is mentioned numerous times, and it seems she does drugs to fight against that lifestyle.  Marion mentions that her well-to-do parents tried to shower her with money and gifts rather than fostering an emotional closeness.  She was probably left feeling empty, then had the means to buy drugs.  After meeting and becoming infatuated with a full-on addict, Marion became more immersed in the drug.  In her altered atate of mind she may have even thought she was in love with Harry–despite a fairly superficial relationship with him.  She couldn’t possibly be close to him, nor him to her because each of their number one priorities was obtaining the next fix.  Soon, Marions drug-use most likely went from recreational activity to habitual cravings, until there was no turning back.  Her dissent into prostitution to feed the growing drug craving will be addressed in my third and final analysis of the film–“from feminine perspectives.”

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