Film Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene
What a title. But they forgot the “Meh”.
TL;DR I wasn’t moved by this. Elizabeth Olsen is talented, and John Hawkes’ character is creepy, but this is defiantly bland filmmaking. 2 out of 5 stars.
I’ll start by saying that this isn’t the type of movie I like, nor should it be the type of movie I should be watching. I have a habit of missing the point of movies like this, but I still gave it a chance.
I really am kinda torn giving it a low score (especially because everyone else apparently loved the shit out of it). I see that it is a haunting portrait and all that intellectual lingo crap, but it just doesn’t work as a story.
Which is a shame, because a lot of what’s going on could be really exciting. All of the cult stuff is horrific and terrifying, and Martha’s resulting paranoia is fascinating. Elizabeth Olsen does a great job of portraying Martha’s emotional range. I’m actually looking forward to Silent House now.
The head of the cult (played devilishly by John Hawkes) is a bit too obviously evil. I mean, we know from the very beginning that she’s escaping the cult for a reason, but the cult members are so obviously brainwashed that there are no surprises here. There is nothing redeeming about the cult. Bitches just bein’ crazy.
And I personally find it hard to sympathise with Martha due to how easily she fell into the cult. We’re not given her specific age, but she was old enough to be living alone with an older aunt before she got taken in, and looking at how her sister is, it’s safe to assume she had a reasonably normal, middle class childhood. How does someone with an ordinary uprbringing and who is old enough to know better get taken in by a cult so obviously insane? What the actual fuck?
And considering how easy it was for her to leave, why didn’t she just leave earlier? There were a slew of really big, flashing red neon warning signs. I know that later she finds out that the cult likes to kill people, and this might have kept her from escaping, but bitch should have legged it after she got fucking renamed. Or got raped. Or got told she had to eat after the men. Or got told she had to sleep in a heap. Come the fuck on. Get real.
Why I hate this movie:
I absolutely refuse to believe that someone like Martha could be so easily swept into that cult. I know it happens in real life, and cult leaders are terrifyingly good at what they do, but no. Martha was a normal, middle class girl around 20 years old. She should have known better.
There is a lot of build up, and when it looks like the movie is about to pay off, it ends. I understand that it is about her paranoia and her inability to reintegrate into normal society (which doesn’t make sense. 2 years of retarded cult living vs 20 years of being a normal person. She should know that it’s not okay to get into bed with 2 people who are fucking), but everything is done so slowly that I didn’t really feel anything. Most of the time I was just waiting for Ted (the sister’s husband) to tell her to fuck off. He does do that, but it takes him long enough.
Lucy, the sister, doesn’t do much to find out where Martha’s been for the past 2 years. Get some answers, bitch. She barely even tries.
Ted is unfairly portrayed as an arrogant douchebag. I felt bad for him.
I think I just couldn’t get past what an idiot Martha is. Both for being such a dumbass for staying in the cult as long as she did, and for being an ungrateful turd to Lucy and Ted. Fuck.
Reasons to watch:
The acting is at least amazing. Though I hated Martha, Elizabeth Olsen did wonders with the character she was given. Putting aside my disbelief at her actions, she is pretty fucked up, and Olsen is incredible at acting all over the range she has to.
The tension of the film is ever-present. I never felt like Martha was safe the whole time she was with Lucy and Ted. Especially after the home invasion flashbacks. The escalation of the plot occurs with perfect pacing. For example, Martha’s initially strange but harmless interactions with the cult, which instantly escalates to full-on rape (and the other women celebrating it. Shudder). And the home invasion gone wrong. The blandness with which these event are portrayed (both via reactions from the cult members and the plainness of the filmic presentation) make it even more sinister. I felt like at any time Martha’s living with Lucy and Ted could break out into one of these, and I was on edge.
And it’s great to see Elizabeth Olsen isn’t a homeless, raccoon-eyed stick insect like her famous sisters.
I don’t believe mood is enough to validate a movie. There needs to be more than just a feeling of dread. I wanted to be moved by this, but when it ended, I felt cheated. 2 out of 5 stars.