Martha has run away from an abusive hippie-like cult where she was living as Marcy May for two years. She turns to her sister and brother-in-law who take her in and want to help her. The problem is Martha is having a hard time separating dreams from reality and when haunting memories of her past keep resurfacing, she may need more help than anyone is able to give her. Written by
There are several references to the work of singer-songwriter, Jackson C. Frank. John Hawkes plays "Marcy's song" in the film, while "Marlene" is played over the credits. It can be assumed that John Hawkes' character, Patrick, fabricated the names Marcy May and Marlene from these songs. See more »
During Martha's breakdown in the party scene, the bow on her white dress is hanging loose when she is being corralled into the bedroom by Lucy and Ted. In the next shot, the bow is done up again. See more »
[as Martha runs away]
Marcy! Marcy May! Where ya goin'?
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Sean Durkin's first feature is quite the trip. Durkin's sensibility as a director shines with this film, and shows undeniable promise. The really crazy thing about this film is that it's quietness is only juxtaposed by the really messed up things that are happening in the plot. An intriguing analytical mess of reality, memory, and fantasy, Martha Marcy May Marlene is about a paranoia, an extreme desire to escape the past, though it always comes back to haunt you. It is the isolation and the trouble that comes with that, that Martha really suffers from-- the cult has a certain way of thinking and the film geniously explores the psychological persuasion into a way of thinking the way that the cult tries to make their ethics and morality universal is a terrifying, and intriguing thing. Elizabeth Olsen does a helluva job as Martha, giving her dewey eyed complexity, both bewilderment, shock, disgust, and intrigue. She gives quiet moments great momentum, and is an actress to keep an eye on. Jody Lee Lipes' cinematography is eerily distant and then uncomfortably close; the mixed bag reflects Martha's psyche in an interesting way. The scariest thing about Martha Marcy May Marlene is that it actually could happen. It may have even benefited from taking that dive a bit further, let us know just how paranoid and altered Martha is, and especially contrasting that with the old Martha, and the only complaint I might have is that we never get to see what the original Martha was like; it is only inferred as to why she would even accept and join this group in the first place, or what exactly she was running away from. But perhaps that makes the film only more intriguing—running away brought her to this society, and of course it looks fine on the outside, with it's acceptable living conditions and always a "family' of sorts around you. But, ah, there's always more than meets the eye. B+
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