Lonely Brighton Beach widow Sara Goldfarb (Burstyn) is hooked on a self-help game show that leads her down a long, dark road to an absurd crash diet and a dangerous addiction to diet pills and coffee. Meanwhile, her twenty-something son Harry (Leto) is experimenting with shooting heroin, and drags his class-slumming, fresh-faced girlfriend Marion (Connelly) with him into a world of extreme self-annihilation.
Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr. (who also penned “Last Exit to Brooklyn”), this heavily stylized sophomore feature by “Pi” director Aronofsky does not shy from depicting Selby’s sordid, hallucinatory world in disturbingly graphic detail. Leto and Connelly are both skilled players, and in these early roles do convincing work as middle-class kids who turn into scabby junkies. But Oscar nominee Burstyn gives 110 percent portraying the pathos of Sara Goldfarb, a woman so consumed by her dream of thinning that she turns into a bedraggled, schizoid zombie.