Don’t try to say the name of the film too fast, for the alliteration is a bit of a tongue-twister, but you definitely should try to check this movie out.
Don’t try to say the name of the film too fast, for the alliteration is a bit of a tongue-twister, but you definitely should try to check this movie out. I actually knew about this mysterious third Olsen sister, Elizabeth, but I certainly didn’t know she had serious acting chops. Whereas the “Olsen Twins” are the pop culture celebrities, Elizabeth Olsen is the serious, talented actress.
After escaping from an abusive cult on a farm, a young woman, Martha, is haunted by painful memories and mounting paranoia as she tries to re-assimilate with her family.
Martha Marcy May Marlene was a festival notable at Cannes and Sundance. It’s the kind of film that gets certain people recognized, such as Elizabeth Olsen, even though everybody in this is great, especially John Hawkes, who plays Patrick, the leader of the cult Martha is drawn into. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him give a bad performance. he is at once charming, charismatic, and quiet, while also possessing of a dangerous side.
The film jumps back and forth from present day, to various points – chronologically – in Martha’s past during her time with the cult. We see her progression there and witness with her how warm. welcoming and free everyone is at this farm, at first. But with each successive flashback, we begin to see the lack of freedom and the progression of danger in this group. At the same time, we see the counter-pont of Martha being back with her sister and her sister’s husband. There, too, is a progression of Martha’s increasingly erratic behavior as the film moves on. It’s an effective way of telling this story, not confusing at all, if anyone has any concerns about that. It’s not as disjointing or as requiring of your concentration as Memento, for sure. But those with no short term memory might not want to smoke anything during it. Or, maybe you should? Just try to focus, people.
Sarah Paulson plays Lucy, Martha’s older sister. She’s also great as the obviously concerned sibling trying to make sense of where her sister was for the past two years. But she also tries to give Martha space as she eventually realizes something is definitely not right with her.
This film paints a fascinating portrayal of someone that has been in a cult and the line between what she remembers as “normal” life, and life by the rules of this isolated cult family. Olsen’s performance is sublte, natural and frankly, a little unsettling sometimes. We feel the paranoia and fear along with her, which is to Olsen’s credit as well as the writer/director’s, Sean Durkin.
Both parts, the present, and the flashbacks, build to a kind of climax of sorts, until we are left with a final shot that is almost amibiguous. If those kind of endings tend to make you bonkers, then you may not want to see this. But I hope people will anyway. Martha Marcy May Marlene is a good film, if not a mouthful of a title, and isn’t it a pleasant change to hear about good films?
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, thinking Elizabeth Olsen is one actress to watch. So you can stop paying so much attention to her sisters. I mean, what was the last good thing they were in? Yeah, you’re thinking Full House, aren’t you?