88. Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene stars Elizabeth Olson as Martha, a young woman who escapes a twisted cult led by Patrick (John Hawkes), who methodically brainwashes his followers into an oppressive lifestyle on a secluded rural compound in the Catskill Mountains.  Fleeing from the cult after two years of abuse, she crashes with her well-to-do sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband Max (Christopher Abbot) who are on holiday in the Hamptons in a swanky condo.  As Martha attempts to blend in to her new surroundings, flashbacks from her time in the cult are interjected to explain the difficulties she faces in embracing social norms, especially with the privileged lifestyle of her sister.  Late one night Martha ill advisedly calls the cult (whom immediately calls back), and begins down a path of paranoia and uncontrollable fear that the cult will find her, causing chaos in the orchestrated and elegant lifestyle of her timid hosts.

Martha Marcy May Marlene incredibly portrays a sense of terror and unease as Martha consistently looks over her shoulder and fails to fit into her new life.  Elizabeth Olson is simply fantastic as the fractured and frantic Martha, with empty wide eyes that indicate a deeply scarred soul.  John Hawkes is enchanting as he eerily oozes the spirits of Charles Manson and David Koresh as a hypnotic and maniacal fanatic and should deservedly get another shot at the Oscar he didn’t win for his role in Winter’s Bone.  Due to brilliant editing and direction, the beginning of each scene will leave you wondering whether Martha is in the comfy confines of the high life or in the dusty farmhouse of a extremist cult.  Provocative and chilling, Martha Marcy May Marlene is easily one of the best psychological thrillers of the year.

4.5 stars out of 5

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Categories: 100 Films

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2 Comments on “88. Martha Marcy May Marlene”

  1. November 22, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    This review was as awesome as the movie.

  2. November 27, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Nice review. This film is definitely different in the way it tells its story and the story it’s trying to tell, and while that’s very much something to applaud, it just didn’t come together for me as well as it could have. Olsen and Hawkes were very good but overall, the film just didn’t do much for me as it did for others. Check out my review when you get the chance.

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