Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Martha, Marcy May, Marlene

"Martha, Marcy May, Marlene" was the winner at Sundance for Best Director, Sean Durkin, who is also the creative mind behind the psychological thriller. The film captivated audiences during the festival run and received a Grand Jury nomination as well losing to "Like Crazy". The plot is a depiction of the painful memories and increasing paranoia, of a damaged woman (Elizabeth Olsen) struggling to adjust back into a life with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.

The film cleverly jumps from the first days of Martha with the cult where she is being handled by her friend Zoe (Louisa Krause) and introduced to the cult leader Patrick (John Hawkes) where he gives her the name Marcy May. The changing name is just one way that Patrick begins to brainwash the women in the cult. He feeds on the weaknesses that they have in their personal life and gives the illusion of empowerment by telling them that they are leaders and teachers. The brilliance of the director Sean Durkin comes through in how he depicts the balance between Martha's time with the cult and her life with her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy). This portrait takes the form of memories such as swimming, gardening and even sexual contact. This shift from memory and reality draws the emotion of the character as well as the audience.

Regardless of the setting for Martha you can see in the performance from Elizabeth Olsen just how trapped she feels by the cult in upstate New York for nearly 2 years as well as the loving care that her sister gives her in the isolated lake house in Connecticut for only 2 weeks. The performance from John Hawkes is equally superb. The buzz surrounding the film may be for the youngest Olsen (she is the younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen), but John Hawkes steals every scene with the glint of his eye and his ability to physically overpower each scene even though he is slight of build. The suspense continues to build as the story unfolds and Martha finally reaches her emotional explosion.

I would be surprised if the film doesn't receive multiple nominations including a nomination for Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay. This film might not be for everyone, so you have to be in the proper frame of mind going into the thriller, but you will walk out amazed by what you have seen. It might be a stretch, but the song that John Hawkes performs and included in the trailer below is brilliant and could earn a nomination as well. All 5 Quacks are very deserving for "Martha, Marcy May, Marlene".

(screening date 8/23/11, release date 12/22/11, location Mazza Galleria)

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