February 26, 2012

Filthy Review - Martha Macy May Marlene

Martha Macy May Marlene (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

Martha Macy May Marlene, aside from being a mouthful of a film title, was another case of a film having a limited theatrical release and not playing anywhere near me when it was released last year. Am sorry but I am not driving two hours to see a movie. Well, ok I might in certain situations, but that’s not the point. Anyway, since I didn’t get a chance to see it on the big screen it has been somewhat of a long wait for me, especially with trying to avoid any online spoilers. Fortunately I have been fairly lucky with regards to this and went into the movie knowing only the bare minimum, the same bare minimum I will share with you, with regards to the plot.

We join the movie with Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) making her escape from the cult that she has been living with for the past two years. Her only real family, aside from the cult, is her sister Lucy and her partner. Martha, understandably, has difficulty readjusting to life in the outside world, which makes her living situation less than idyllic, and is further complicated with memories of her time in the cult.

The movie shifts seamlessly between the present and flashbacks to Martha’s time with the cult, slowly revealing as it does what life was like there, and what Martha had to endure. It truly is riveting stuff, not to mention uncomfortable and at times scary viewing.

The sense of paranoia and confusion in this movie is perfectly captured through writer/director Sean Durkin’s clever screenplay, and execution of it. But it is Elizabeth Olsen’s performance as Martha, Macy May and Marlene (it makes perfect sense when you watch it) that really shines amongst a really strong cast. Her wide-eyed innocence, sense of confusion and fear, are all perfectly portrayed which helped create a genuine empathy for her character.

Aside from Olsen’s performance there are also very strong turns from Sara Paulson, as Lucy, Hugh Dancy, as Lucy’s increasingly frustrated partner, and John Hawkes as the charismatic cult leader Patrick. Hawkes once again shows that he is quite a terrific actor following his turn in the wonderful Winter’s Bone.

Martha Macy May Marlene is certainly not what you might call an instant movie, you won’t be cheering and shouting when it ends, instead it is the type of film that lingers in your mind as you piece together the full picture. In fact I recommend you watch Mary Last Seen, which is Durkin’s short film prequel to this film, which is on the Blu-ray and DVD release of this film. It features different characters but gives a little insight on how the cult draws in new family members. Well worth a watch.

Speaking of the end of the film, I will say this without fear of spoiling it; it may not be to everyone’s liking. Personally I did, as it further fueled my thinking of, and about, the film. This is a film of subtleties and understated actions, with it only occasionally boiling to the service.

Martha Macy May Marlene is quite an exceptional movie and, as I am writing this on the day the Academy Awards get handed out, can’t help but feel it was criminally ignored by said Academy. Mind you, since when have they got it right? Only very occasionally, so just do yourself a favor and grab yourself a copy of this quite unique and excellent movie.

Martha Macy May Marlene is available on Blu-ray and DVD now from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

No comments: