AUSTIN FILM FETIVAL 2011
By Dave Campbell | October 30, 2011
Director: Sean Durkin
Writer: Sean Durkin
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes, Hugh Dancy, Brady Corbet, Louisa Krause, Julia Garner, Christopher Abbot, Maria Dizzia
Martha Marcy May Marlene is the identity crisis of Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), an impressionable young woman in her early twenties who escapes early one morning from the vile abuses of Patrick (John Hawkes) who leads a cult “family” of misguided youth on a farmland compound in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. After arriving at a diner in the nearest town for a well needed meal, Martha places a payphone call to her older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson), pleading for her to come and pick her up. Missing for almost two years, Martha attempts to acclimatize back into normal family life, but her bottled up secrets from the recent past invokes erratic behavior and paranoia that Patrick and his cult family are still on her heals.
From the beginning the build up is intense and engaging. The back-and-forth timelines also play well in the storytelling, but it’s the overall lack of payoff that gives me sheer frustration with this film. The premise was extremely interesting and the acting was superb, but for me it really felt all bark and no bite; and when I say all bark, I’m speaking about an elderly Chihuahua with a disabled voice box. I do enjoy unseen outcomes and situations that are left for the audience to ponder over, but to leave so much on the table after pacing that’s so plodding…it’s hard to move past. This isn’t a psychological thriller as it’s being marketed, but rather a psychological drama. I was really expecting Martha Marcy May Marlene to grab a hold of me the same way that Winters Bone and Meek’s Cutoff did, but at the end of the day pieces of great importance were missing from the experience.