Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene

March 22, 2012, 7:48 am
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Mary-Kate & Ashley, the Olsen twins, the richest kid stars in the storied history of kid stars. But no amount of cash could get Hollywood studios to obliterate their prejudices against the pair thanks to classics like Holiday in the Sun

Have no fears, here to salvage the family's thespian name is the third Olsen, Elizabeth, the youngest of the bunch and a virtual lock for an Oscar-nod after her stunning performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene.

The non-Olsen twin (a prettier Maggie Gyllenhaal) plays Martha - although that name morphs on the quick (hence the odd title). Olsen "looks like a Marcy May" to a typically brilliant John Hawkes, the cold-blooded leader of the cult that Martha/Marcy May finds herself immersed in when we first meet her character. 

What starts rather innocuously, becomes increasingly more unnerving as skilled first-time writer/director Sean Durkin gradually unveils a much more sinister side to Hawkes and his clan of servants, dishing out one of the most shockingly chilling scenes in cinema of late.

Durkin deftly merges Martha's cult-member past with her present through a series of flashbacks and flash forwards. After Martha makes a run from the cult, she lands in big sis's (Sarah Paulson) lakefront home to detox - although she's utterly unaware of her dire need to do just that. It's that hangover of being manipulated by Hawkes that allows the tension to be ratcheted-up to positively terrifying levels. 

While the culmination will undoubtedly leave a lot of folks unfulfilled but given the overall mood of the movie, it's not altogether unexpected.

Not since The Wicker Man (the original, not the Nic Cage abomination) has a movie delved into cult life with such an organic and foreboding fashion. Martha Marcy May Marlene is superb, a disturbing psychological drama that's guaranteed to rack up more and more followers as its menacing message is spread.

Grade: A-

It was many moons ago in a darkened theater that my love of cinema took root as I snuck in to see my first R-rated film, Blade Runner. The futuristic vision that Ridley Scott unleashed on the screen was simply soul-expanding — spiritual even. From that moment, my mission to have that kind of magic strike again began in earnest. My hope is to be able to shine a light on films that may just have that kind of effect on you — films that may be lesser known, but not lesser in impact. 
- Erick Weber

Final Cut Scoring System
99-95% Opening night
94-90% Opening weekend
89-86% In theaters
85-83% On Demand
82-80% Netflix/Redbox
79-75% If desperate
74-70% If dozing off
69-65% If intoxicated
64-60% If comatose
Below 60% If brain dead

Erick's reviews
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