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Archive for the ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ Category

Martha Marcy May Marlene – review

Martha, Marcy May, Marlene

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Martha Marcy May Marlene, stars Elizabeth Olsen (yes the Olsen twins little sister), in her feature film debut.  She plays a young girl Martha that runs away from a cult that lives in the Catskill mountains.  She  escapes at the beginning of the film and calls a family member, Lucy, who is surprised to hear from her.  It is clear that the two have not heard from each other in some time, and Martha is not sure if she should even be speaking to her.  It is clear from the beginning that whoever she has been living with since her and Lucy last spoke, has a great hold over her.  Martha finally agrees to let Lucy come and pick her up so she can spend some time with her.

Lucy lives with her husband Ted, a wealthy British businessman who has never met Martha, but is willing to help.  They let Martha stay with them, and attempt to understand where she’s been, and what has happened to her in the past year.  Martha does things that don’t make sense to them.  The world she lived in did not operate by the same rules as theirs, and she’s been hidden from normal society for quite some time.

The film flashes back and forth from the present to Martha’s time with the Cult, where she was not known as Martha, but by the name Marcy May, a name that was given to her by cult leader Patrick (Tom Hawkes)  He’s very Charles Manson meets Jim Jones as I’m sure most cult leaders are.

The film starts off innocently enough, but it’s clear that Martha or Marcy May, is a deeply disturbed young woman.  Her time with the cult did something to her, and this is the story of what happened. Hopefully now she can assimilate into a normal functioning society.

Lucy attempts to understand if she could have done more, or been there more for Martha.  There’s a great rift between Martha and Lucy and Ted.  When they start to really get into the meat of the problems and differences between them all, is when things start to get really interesting.  The film however could have done a lot more with the interplay between the characters.  There’s so much good content that is only hinted at, that could easily have been expounded upon to make an even better film here.  If you’re going to make a film of this nature, don’t pull any punches.

This is an extremely strong, grown up role for Olsen who is only 22 years old.  She plays a woman who doesn’t know much about the world, or at least forgot the things she did know about the world.  There’s an innocence that is lost, and the film attempts to explore where it went.  I’m really surprised at the depth of performance she brings to the screen here, and I would not be shocked to see her nominated for an Academy Award in a few months.  It truly is a phenomenal breakout role.

Tom Hawkes is also one of those actors that has slowly crept up the radar in highly dramatic roles.  He’s deplorable as cult leader Patrick, but he’s also extremely charismatic.  It’s creepy to say the least.

The film reminds me a lot of the work of Lukas Moodyson (Lyla 4-Ever, Mammoth).  In fact I thought it was by him until I read that it was by first time director Sean Durkin.   Durkin goes for shock factor, while also trying to make the film subdued.  I think other films explore this motif a little better (Lilya 4-Ever, Requiem For a Dream), but Durkin shows a lot of promise in his first film.   It explores subject matter that many of us do not want to be subjected to.  It’s one of those films that you need to watch once, but you’ll probably never want to watch it again.  Sometimes once is enough.  In the end the film does raise a lot of questions about youth, and control, and society as a whole, but it doesn’t dig in far enough.


Grade: B-