Martha Marcy May Marlene: Review

13 Mar


The film open with Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) escaping from a communal farm in rural New York.  Martha scared and alone contacts her estranged older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and ends up hiding out in Lucy’s Connecticut vacation home.  In an effort to protect herself or maybe her sister, Martha will only tell Lucy and her brother-in-law Ted (Hugh Dancy) that she was living with a boyfriend.  At first Martha seems fragile, but functional enough to reintegrate into the world, but then she starts giving Lucy and Ted the creeps.

Martha starts asking strange questions, having violent outbursts and laying on Lucy and Ted’s bed while the couple is having sex in it.  At a dinner party the couple hosts at their home, Martha has a violent paranoid outbreak and Lucy stays with her throughout the night.  Lucy obviously feels responsible for Martha, but her husband is increasingly alarmed and wants Martha committed.

Throughout the film, we see what Martha experienced through flashbacks of the farm and the cult’s charismatic leader Patrick (John Hawkes) and we begin to understand how damaged she is.  Not only was her self-esteem systematically broken down by Patrick, but she was encouraged to subservient, take part in orgies, steal and even participate in murder.  Martha’s increasing paranoia seems unfounded at the beginning of the movie, yet you slowly start to wonder if the cult is coming to bring her back to the farm or kill her.

The ending is ambiguous and you are left wondering what will happen to Martha.

Hawkes is fantastic as the cult leader.  One moment he is menacing: the next he is cuddling Martha telling her that she’s his favorite.  Olsen is the real standout of the movie and it’s hard to believe that it’s her first feature film. Olsen is sweet and sad one minute then aggressive and cruel the next.  Martha Marcy May Marlene received a lot of recognition at the 2011 Sundance film festival and it’s easy to see why.


2 Responses to “Martha Marcy May Marlene: Review”

  1. misha March 14, 2012 at 1:08 am #

    I can’t wait to see this!!

  2. misha April 1, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    I just watched this – what a powerful film! It’s like a modern day Manson family!

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