Movie Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene is one of the best movies of the year with some amazing performances by Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes.

Opening this week at the Downer Theatre is Martha Marcy May Marlene and I was lucky enough to catch this movie at this year's Sundance Film Festival back in January. It was one of the best films I saw at the festival and am looking forward to seeing it again.   

Martha Marcy May Marlene stars Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of the Olsen twins, and John Hawkes, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for last years Winter's Bone. Both give great performances in this movie and there is Oscar buzz for both of them this year.

Elizabeth Olsen plays Martha Marlene, who joins a cult where cult leader Patrick (John Hawkes) decides her name should be Marcy May. Patrick uses fear and sex to control the numerous women he has there. He makes each one feel special and is able to manipulate everyone to commit robberies to support the cult. After Martha has had enough she escapes the cult and goes to live with her sister who she hasn't talked to in two years. She struggles with assimilating to the normal world and is in constant fear that the other cult members are going to come looking for her.

The movie starts with Martha calling her sister and moving in with her and we are told the story of the cult in flashbacks. The tension is built on the performance of Elizabeth Olsen, who is heartbreaking as she is conflicted with the mentalities of the cult versus the real world. Each day she has breakthroughs and setbacks as her sister tries to understand what is going on. The whole time we really don't know if the paranoia is real or just imaginary.

The great performances and increasing paranoia makes this movie great. While some might have some issues with the ending I think it works. If you are looking for a great small independant film check this movie out. I hope that it picks up  more Oscar buzz as the movie gets seen by more people. It really is one of the best movies of the year.

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Jacob Crawford November 09, 2011 at 06:33 PM
Nice review. I'm looking forward to this one. There was a word of mouth screening at the Oriental on Monday and the response was somewhat mixed. I just think it was a bit unconventional for the mainstream moviegoers in attendance. Just one correction though: MMMM opens on Friday at the Downer, not the Oriental.
Stephen Milek November 10, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Thanks I think the ending will have some people feeling frustrated but it is not as bad as other Sundance movies. But I think the performances really make this movie.


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