Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) (R)
Sean Durkin's "Martha Marcy May Marlene" is a great movie—pure and simple. The movie's story telling is so slight that it forces the viewer to engage. Wow, that's already confusing and contradictory...
Let's try that again—"Martha Mary May Marlene" lets enough time pass in each scene and keeps information from the viewer...in doing so, Durkin proves himself as a great story teller.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that the film knows that its audience will put things together...so less become more.
I'm pretty sure what I was trying to say was somewhere in the previous sentences, but I'm not going back to try to make it clearer—onward and upward!
"Martha Marcy May Marlene" is deceivingly dark, it's not until the last act of the movie that you realize this. Perhaps this sly way of cheating the audience comes from the glorious script, which Durkin also wrote. He allows simple sentences to carry so much weight. The context of the viewer and the characters differ—what they see as normal, we find disturbing.
Durkin's film begins in what looks like an Amish community. The men work outside—hammering, splitting wood, and plowing fields—while the women stay inside, take care of the children, and wash the laundry. When supper time comes, the men eat first; silent and with gusto. After they're finished, the women sip on watery soup.
Then everyone goes to sleep, free-for-all. Human beings make piles of sleeping bodies anywhere there's a soft spot in the tiny house. They dream on the ground, sofa, bed...wherever.
One woman slips out of the house in the early hours of the morning. She steps into the woods and takes off running.
This is Martha, Marcy May, or Marlene. She is our central character in a tale of convoluted memories.
Martha (Elizabeth Olson in a star-making role) calls her sister once she is out of the woods. Lucy (Sarah Paulson) is shocked by the phone call; it's been two years since she's last heard from her sister.
Martha ends up at Lucy's house, but no one can imagine the secrets that Martha brings with her.
We spiral back into Martha's past to see the events leading up to her stay at her sister's house. With each memory, we gain a little more knowledge and with that, the film takes a small, nasty turn.
"Martha Marcy May Marlene" looks great. It's filmed much like the typical indie movie which can get tedious but works very well for this picture. You get the feeling that you are watching real people and not actors, which is a rare feat to accomplish.
I don't want to talk too much about the plot, because it's much more enjoyable to let the film surprise you. I'll just say this—it's gloriously, maddeningly stifling.
The film is incendiary. I was screaming at the movie, wanting something to happen...all in good time. Durkin makes his viewer wait, and wait, and wait. When it feels like it's been too long—bam, there it is...the thing you were waiting for.
You crave for an emotional release and for tears...they come, but be patient.
On a side note that has nothing to do with the rest of this review: this movie somehow reminded me of "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" and I don't know why.
Elizabeth Olson is brilliant as Martha, she has just the right amount of screws loose.
It's a movie that would be easy to over-dramatize; but Durkin played all his cards right.
"Martha Marcy May Marlene" is stunning.
Score: 4 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones