Movie Review – Martha Marcy May Marlene

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Movie Review – Martha Marcy May Marlene

Category : Movie Review

Director: Sean Durkin
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson
Year: 2011

I’ll try not to make any Full House references in this review, but it’s got to be noted that Elizabeth Olsen is the little sister of twins Mary-Kate & Ashley.  Along with two other movies in 2011, she made her film debut in this one and has moved on to some pretty big projects: the Oldboy remake & another Godzilla movie.  So watching this film I tried to give her a little bit of slack knowing that she’s an amateur actor and that the part of an escaped cult member can’t be an easy one to play.  She ended up delivering a solid performance and showed why she might someday be a big star.  As hard as it is to define, some people have that “it” factor, and I believe that Olsen is one of them.
Martha, of Marcy May as she’s called by her new friends, is a girl searching for something that is apparently hard to find.  Young, alone, and impressionable, she joins a commune starting a sustainable farm that seems to have all the happiness in the world.  They are led by Patrick, a charismatic leader who takes all the women in the group under his wing and teaches them how to be leaders themselves.  But there is a price to pay to be a part of the family; hard work, rules, and a giving of yourself that will not be easy.  When Martha finds that her new life is one she can’t handle anymore, she turns to her estranged sister and brother-in-law, Lucy & Ted.  They lead a respectable, wealthy existence and Martha’s new lifestyle is one that doesn’t mesh.  As she attempts a return to normalcy, ‘Marcy May’ can’t escape her old habits or the constant fear that her past will find her.
For a young actress, Olsen delivers a very nice character that is both believable and haunting.  It’s an understated performance in an understated movie, and that always makes me a happy audience member.  The horror and the scars of the cult are well portrayed, but not made into a Hollywood farce.  And John Hawkes as the cult leader it spot on; creepy, engaging, and alluringly evil.  Olsen & Hawkes together work well, as do Olsen & Paulson, and the present day scenes are intermixed quite nicely with the past in a way that isn’t tricky but is very enjoyable to watch.  There’s nothing in the film that will blow you away, but it’s a tight movie with real emotion that truly shows the torture of paranoia and the difficulty of fitting in when your life has been anything but normal.  Not as easy watch, but one that is compelling, realistic, and memorable.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰