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Martha Marcy May Marlene
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Reviewed on 2011-11-11
Received[2]  out of 4 stars
GenreDrama / Thriller
This chilling low-budget drama from writer-director Sean Durkin has many similarities to last year’s indie hit “Winter’s Bone.” It exposes the viewer to an existence that most people know little about. It features a breakthrough performance by 22-year-old Elizabeth Olsen (the younger sister of famous twins Mary-Kate and Ashley) as the title character that compares favorably to the dramatic acting showcase turned in by Jennifer Lawrence. The leading man is once again John Hawkes.

Haunted by painful memories and suffering from increasing anxiety, Martha (Olsen) escapes an abusive cult in the Catskill Mountains and seeks refuge in the Connecticut lakeside home of her estranged older sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and Lucy’s husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy).

With no other family to lean on, Martha tries desperately to re-assimilate back into society. Ordinary moments trigger nightmares of the cult’s oppressive patriarchal leader, Patrick (Hawkes), who brainwashed her into living as “Marcy May.” An uncertain reality prevents her from connecting with the only people who may be able to save her from a psychological abyss.

As Martha’s isolation grows, her severe paranoia and disassociation escalates. She descends into a delusional state of panic with a growing fear that she is being hunted down by members of the cult.

Despite the standout acting from Olsen and Hawkes, this movie’s disturbing violent and sexual content is painful to sit through. You will find yourself checking your watch and saying enough already to the grim subject matter that makes this an immensely unsettling experience. The movie is slowly paced, claustrophobic at times and repetitive in showing this young and impressionable girl’s troubled expression in facial close-ups.

Durkin won the dramatic directing award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival for this feature film debut. v After making the rounds at various film festivals around the globe, a theatrical limited engagement release begins this weekend exclusively at AMC Studio 30, Glenwood Arts and Tivoli in Westport.

Review By:
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"


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