Martha Marcy May Marlene

Things that start out seeming like a commune can actually end up more like a cult in the end. The movie starts at that end, with Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) running away from it, and being pursued, which is a good way to know for sure that it wasn’t ever a commune. She’s been gone for years so her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law Ted (Hugh Dancy) are pretty surprised to get her call, but they welcome her into their home though she keeps her past whereabouts on the downlow.

Lucy and Ted have a very nice life and an idyllic home, but Martha can’t really relax. She wonders if she’s far enough away, if she’s safe. She’s haunted by flashbacks of the cult that kept her captive. And Lucy is still a little hurt that her sister was just out MV5BYTZkZmM4ZjYtOGM5Mi00YzllLTk4OTgtNTJlODhmMzIwY2NjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDQzMDYzOQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1500,1000_AL_of contact for so long – she might have empathy if only she knew the truth. But the two sisters have only each other for family, and now they’re struggling to readjust to each other. And truthfully, Martha is a little frustrating with the tight lip thing.

John Hawkes plays the charismatic cult leader who rapes the girls but then writes them a lovely ballad the next morning. It’s an interesting role for him. I love John Hawkes, he’s so unassuming but he’s got this massive range. In this he straddles this character, dangling him between ordinary Joe and insidious monster. And of course it’s the monsters who look normal who are the most scary, aren’t they? That’s how they catch you.

Christopher Abbott, Julia Garner, and the wonderful Maria Dizzia round out the cult cast, giving it some flavour, because not everyone gets to be the tyrannical messiah.

Leaving is hard. Staying isn’t easy. Sometimes it seems impossible to do either/or. Director Sean Durkin creates a real psychological quagmire; it goes down relatively smoothly but leaves a drop in your stomach so you remember – yeah, now that was a movie.

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19 thoughts on “Martha Marcy May Marlene

  1. indiefan20

    I saw this movie a while ago but I remember really liking it, John Hawkes is awesome and Elizabeth Olson did an outstanding job in the lead role. It’s a shame her talent was so wasted in “Godzilla.” :/

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jay Post author

      She was great in Ingrid Goes West, and particularly in Wind River.
      I don’t think Godzilla is the kind of movie concerned with good acting.

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      1. indiefan20

        No, and they killed Heisenberg less than halfway through and let that annoying kid from “Kick-Ass” take over. I hated that. 😛

        I haven’t seen “Ingrid Goes West” and “Wind River,” but they’re on my to-watch list!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Tom

    Love your comment about John Hawkes. I really had no idea the guy does have this kind of range. I’m sure I’ve seen him in other stuff, but the image I keep returning to is his scraggly little fisherman Muggsy in The Perfect Storm. A good role, mind you, but when that movie was famous for underdeveloping it’s characters, it’s kind of a random reference. Didn’t you guys cover a film he starred in at last year’s Sundance? (Could be several years back at this point. I can’t recall. Just remember being wowed at what he has been bringing to the table as of late.)

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, good memory, Small Town Crime we saw two years ago and it’s a lot of fun, and this year we saw him in…something else. Unlovable. Had to look it up!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Tom

        It was actually this thing called Too Late (2015). And it was a review on Flixchatter that I remember, but yes — both of those titles you mention also intrigue me. He’s been busy as of late.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Jay Post author

      It’s cool because it doesn’t go for the obvious stuff, and I think it’s more creepy because it makes it feel almost ordinary.

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  3. J.

    I’ll have to look for this one… not one that’s appeared on my radar (truth be told, it’s not likely to have at any point if it wasn’t for your review).

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  4. Steven

    Saw this when it came out and I, sadly, forgot all about it. This review has made me want to go back and watch it again! What is it about movies that make us uncomfortable pulling us in again and again!?

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