On the surface, Requiem for a Dream appears to be the next in a long line of junkie movies, and even on that level, it's one of the most visceral depictions of addiction ever put on film. But at its core, Darren Aranofsky's sophomore effort is a tragic fable, the story of four characters who haven't got the will to be happy with what they have. But sympathy isn't something Aranofsky ever asks his audience to feel for the four hopeless addicts. Rather, he forcefully imposes the characters and their stories on the audience with the intent of leaving an impression. And leave an impression he does. One walks away from the film with an indelible mark on the psyche that isn't necessarily pleasant but certainly testifies to the realism and intensity of the film. As if the abilities of Aranofsky aren't enough, the film's cast shines in some of the most underrated performances of 2000. Jennifer Connelly delivers, as expected, in a role that most wouldn't have the guts to even consider. Jared Leto proves himself to be more than just a pretty face and capable of taking on leading-man roles. Marlon Wayans, easily the biggest surprise, is incredible, superbly cast against type and proving himself to be highly skilled as a dramatic performer. But it is Ellen Burstyn who deserves the most acclaim. In what may be her finest performance to date, Burstyn effortlessly portrays her character's decline at the hands of loneliness, false hope, and prescription medication. Nominated, but ultimately beat out, Burstyn's performance is worthy of a thousand Oscars.