November 13, 2011

Movie Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene

To start of simply, I can say that I had no idea what to expect from this movie. The trailer displayed what looked like an intriguing tale of a troubled young girl. How she got to be that way, I have no idea what the story was about, but the characters did interest me. On top of that, there is the presence of John Hawkes who seems to elevate the material, plus he delivers a rather haunting song. Take all of those tings together and you get a movie that, given the chance, there is no doubt you would find me at a screening. Lo and behold, it popped up on the schedule and 1, the ever dutiful movie fan, went off to check it out. What an experience it was.

To continue the simply motif, simply put, this is a fascinating and frustrating film. It is the sort of movie that can and will greatly divide the audience. Writer/director Sean Durkin has offered a movie that simultaneously offers up a great deal of content and precious little. It is the sort of movie that requires you, the audience, to get on board to get the most out of it, or watch passively and not care about the characters. There really isn't a right answer as different people watch differently, regardless of what the film requires.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a daring film that employs a fractured timeline, with each segment fitting in with the one preceding and the one following. It is a challenging watch to put the pieces together as some of the pieces are not necessarily in the correct order, following a traditional timeline, and some of them may not even be real, instead there is the possible injection of imagined/dreamed events. The possibility of imagining some things is an idea introduced by the main character when she asks if you ever wonder if something you dreamed could be mistaken for reality. Kind of throws a wrench in the works of what we saw before and will see after.

The movie concerns a young woman who we come to know though the integration of two timelines, neither one with enough information n their own to be complete, leaving some of that connective tissue to be inferred or created in the viewer's mind. It is something you will ever enjoy or you are on for a long movie.

There is a cold open as we see men outside working and women inside preparing dinner. The men come inside and sit around the table eating, the women wait outside. As the men finish and leave, the women go in and eat whatever is left. Yes, this is odd and there is no dialogue.

The scene shifts to the next morning, one of the women sneaks down the stairs, out the door, across the road and into the woods. She is pursued by others living in the house. I is pretty clear that this is not exactly am ideal situation.

Well, the story break down to Martha's (Elizabeth Olson) time in that house and that after she runs away and reunites with her older sister. The timeline then starts to shift between her attempt to heal and reintegrate with her sister and her husband and her time of indoctrination in what amounts to a cult.

Martha is dubbed Marcy May by Patrick (John Hawkes), who renames all of the newcomers to his compound. The women and men are treated differently and all of hem are required to find there way and what their role is. The women all are brainwashed into feeling special by Patrick and his quietly charismatic role as leader.

You know, as I try to think of how to describe the plot, I think it is better served as an experience. This movie is about a woman with a fractured psyche, caught between her time of indoctrination and her current period of trying to resume a normal life in society.

This movie does a fine job of putting you in that fractured state where past and present collide as a the mind attempts to correct itself. It does not help that her sister does not recognize the level of damage done to her, nor that her brother in law does not seem to really want to try and help. In a way, she is caught between two worlds where she does not belong.

Elizabeth Olson (younger sister to Mary Kate and Ashley) is a revelation. She delivers a brave performance that is utterly convincing. She makes it look easy to portray the damaged youth. It is definitely impressive for her first major role. She is supported by a fine cast with the previously mentioned John Hawkes leading the cult and Sarah Paulson as her sister.

This will not give you a clan ending, it will make you wonder just what happened and probably why it happened. It will leave you with more questions than answers, but it will al be worthwhile.

Highly Recommended.

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