You may not be able to remember the title, but you certainly won’t forget the movie. Martha Marcy May Marlene is one of those films that you find yourself still thinking about days later. It’s been getting a lot of buzz because of the performance by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s little sister, Elizabeth, and I have to say the buzz is not wrong. Her performance is outstanding.
Olsen plays the title character, a 20-something woman who is fleeing from a cult in the Catskills as the movie opens. She calls her estranged sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson) for help and she comes to pick her up. At that point we learn her name is Martha. They go to Lucy’s Connecticut lake house where Martha tries to adjust to normal life. But we immediately see that is going to be nearly impossible. This girl’s head has been seriously messed with.
The movie cuts back and forth in time from the present at the lake house to her past with the cult. At first, things at the cult’s farmhouse seem safe and supportive to Martha – full of guitar strumming, organic gardening hippies and their leader, the charismatic and creepily calm, Patrick (John Hawkes). Patrick decides Martha looks like a Marcy May and he puts her through the same disturbing initiation ritual all of the women there go through. Patrick’s outward appearance is subdued but he manages to ooze menace from every pore. The guy will totally creep you out. It is a great performance by Hawkes.
As Martha, Marcy May (the Marlene becomes clear later in the movie, but I won’t spoil it here) tries to cope with the memories of what happened to her in the past, she becomes more and more paranoid in the present. The psychological abuse and brainwashing has taken a heavy toll and she struggles to figure out what is real and what is just in her head. It’s a tense and disturbing journey that takes us to a chilling climax.
This is a psychological thriller that will get inside your head. So if you’re looking for a movie that will haunt you this Halloween weekend, this is the one to see.