MOVIE REVIEW: Martha Marcy May Marlene; The Youngest Olsen Girl Debuts With A Bang
Elizabeth Olsen (that’s the younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley) deserves to shoot to the top of young Hollywood’s A-list for her vulnerable but powerful performance as a former cult member in Martha Marcy May Marlene. She’s vulnerable one minute and commanding the next, gradually blending the two seamlessly.
The film opens as Martha (renamed “Marcy May” by her cult leader) escapes from a farm where she has lived with many of women and a few men, under the relentless eye of Patrick (played with terrifying soft-spokeness by John Hawkes). Martha reunites with her sister (Sarah Paulson), not explaining her two-year disappearance. But as Martha struggles with and relives her painful experiences, her behavior becomes erratic and even violent. Her sister and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy), not knowing what’s going on, grow less and less patient.
First-time writer and director Sean Durkin has quite an accomplishment here, crafting a film that is both thoughtful and (almost) completely tense. Martha’s increasingly dark memories create a nervous anticipation, and her paranoia over being re-captured starts to look suspiciously legit.
Throughout, Olsen is supported by an amazing cast, even those in the smallest roles. Every character, from cult member to bartender, seems to be totally convinced that what they are doing is right and kind, no matter how cruel it seems to the audience.
But don’t expect any clear answers. As the film cut to black in the middle of a frightful and vague ending and the credits began to role, a man at the showing stormed out of the theater and yelled, “It’s just like the fuckin’ Sopranos!”