Friday, November 4, 2011

"Martha Marcy May Marlene"

Fox Searchlight has been promoting Martha Marcy May Marlene for months now, and it has very positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes as well. It definitely is a movie that will leave you thinking about it, but it could have been a much better film, and the ending is abrupt and had audience members at the screening I went to thinking that the projector had broken (yes, seriously), since the screen goes black after the end scene.

Martha (newcomer Elizabeth Olsen, sister of Mary Kate and Ashley) has lived in a cult for the past two years or so, though the word "cult" is never used. They're one big happy family - they all share chores, including child-rearing - oh, and all the women have sex with the leader of the cult, Patrick (creepily played by John Hawkes, Contagion) to "cleanse" themselves, and they also have mass orgies with the male members of the cult with him watching. You know, all the stuff that "normal" families do. When Martha first joins the cult, she knows something is amiss, but soon she is the one guiding the new recruits and telling them to enjoy their "special night" with Patrick.

At the beginning of the film, we see Martha run away from the cult, and she calls her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson, TV's Cupid) to pick her up. Lucy brings her back to the lake house in Connecticut where she and her husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy, Confessions of a Shopaholic) are vacationing. Martha hasn't been in touch with Lucy for the past two years, and she tells Lucy that she had been living with a boyfriend in the Catskills. Lucy and Ted know something is wrong with her, however, because of her strange and erratic behavior, and Ted eventually suggests that Martha should seek psychiatric help.

The actor who steals the show, in my opinion, is John Hawkes, as the leader of the cult. He is creepy beyond belief and dominates all of his scenes. Elizabeth Olsen delivers a fine performance as well, even though her character never actually tells her sister that she was in a cult. The movie slides superbly from the past to the present, using parallels between "normal" activities in the cult and the activities she does in her new life, such as cutting vegetables in the kitchen. I can only recommend that you maybe see this film, though because the movie drags throughout, and the ending of the movie was way too abrupt for my taste. You will be thinking about Martha, or Marcy May, or Marlene, long after you see this film, as it prefers to quietly creep into your head rather than make any bold statements, but the movie could have been executed better.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is in theaters today, November 4th, and is rated R with an approximate runtime of 100 minutes.

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