Sunday, November 27, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene

By s. Sunday, November 27, 2011 , , , , , ,
65/100 (102 min, 2011)
Plot: Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.
Director: Sean Durkin
Writer: Sean Durkin (screenplay)
Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson and John Hawkes

She's just a picture

"And this caravan it becomes an alter
And the priests, the priests are big as none
And I'll share, share our time together
Until our time together is done
But your skin it was pretty
And I loved, I loved another one
Now she, she's just like some picture
That has faded in the sun"
- Marcy's Song, Jackson C. Frank

"Martha Marcy May Marlene" is a fascinating but deeply flawed movie. It follows Martha, who seeks shelter at her older sister's house after fleeing the cult. The movie provides intense look into cult's proceedings and Martha's mind - she is horribly disturbed young woman, who will never be the same after what she has been through. Martha falls deeper and deeper into isolation as the movie progresses, being unable to disclose what happened to her to her family and constantly fearing that the cult members will come back to claim her.
Martha sees danger everywhere and for most time stays inside the house. She has absolutely no boundaries - she urinates on herself, attempts to swim naked in the lake, she sits on the bed when her sister makes love to her husband. The family's actions are in their essence not much different from what the cult was doing to the girl - they offer Martha help but they just end up inrisoning her in rituals and their way of life insteand of getting Martha psychatric help which she really needs.

The main problem with the film is that as much it is very realistic picture, the cold handling of everything in the story makes it almost impossible to care about any of the characters. Matha's sister played by Sarah Paulson never gives the audience any reason to feel for her, as do her husband, played by Hugh Dancy. The sister feels guilt for how Martha's life turned out because she left her with many problems and left for college. The husband wants bizarre Martha out of the house. And truthfully, you really can't blame him.

At first I felt bad for that girl - getting caught up in the cult, being involved with murder, being forced to learn how to shoot. But Martha is extremely weak - she is the kind of person who never tried to turn her life around and blames everyone for her situation. But the turning point in which I stopped not caring and started despising her was the dinner, in which Martha lashes out her cult preaching nonsense about money and careers being stupid to her brother in law. I hate people like that - who mostly because they are lazy never get an education and ultimately a job. And then they cling on to religion or cult that justifies them being, essentially, losers. It's pathetic.
But the credit has to go to Elizabeth Olsen - she gives very strong performance and doesn't hit once false note - she at times manages to make you feel sympathy for loathsome Martha. Unfortunately for her, there is a performance in this movie so superb it basically makes her fade in the thin air - John Hawkes plays dangerous and alluring cult leader and he just blows everyone in this film out of the water. He is amazing and the scene where he sings disturbing "Marcy's song" to Martha is the best moment in the film. The cult's actions are mostly alluded to and very shocking - Hawkes's character Patrick only has the sons with the cult followers - whom he rapes, but them tricks them into thinking that was some kind of honor - what do you think happens to the baby girls these women give birth to?

The movie has very clever editing, but it's ultimately extremely tiresome and dull experience. The ambiguous ending is very true and smart - given how Martha will always have to carry her paranoia like a cross on her back, but ultimately the end just amplifies the sense of dissatisfaction you have while watching this movie.Much like other over hyped indie "Blue Valentine" strong male performance is the best thing in this movie.


  1. Very fair and balanced review. I like that you gave credit where credit is do but refreshingly pointed out the film's flaws (which not many people are doing). I didn't dig the ending either, thought it was too lazy.

    "over hyped"...Blue Valentine.... :-(

  2. Nice review. This film is definitely different in the way it tells its story and the story it’s trying to tell, and while that’s very much something to applaud, it just didn’t come together for me as well as it could have. Olsen and Hawkes were very good but overall, the film just didn’t do much for me as it did for others.

  3. I think I liked this more than you, but this is still a very solid review. Holy shit was Hawkes terrifying in this. Eeeeww. Makes me shudder just thinking about far sick f--k!

    ( where has Hawkes been, btw?)