Friday, October 28, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene

This mysterious film with the curiously alliterative title that nobody can seem to get straight has been garnering a ton of buzz ever since it premiered at Sundance and then played at Cannes and Toronto.  It's rare for a film to play at all three prestigious festivals, so I was anxiously anticipating it despite the fact I knew absolutely nothing about it.  And now, having seen it twice, I can tell you it totally lives up to the hype.  (Although it took me some time after the first viewing and a second screening to fully appreciate it.)

As for the plot, I'd rather not say anything at all actually.  The less you know, the more you'll enjoy this quiet, tense, emotional, dramatic thriller.  The joy of a film like this (and I use the word 'joy' very loosely because this dark drama is not joyful in the least) is watching it unfold.  You never know where it's going to go.  But I will tell you what it isn't so you know what you're getting into.  This is not a feel good film.  This is not a horror film or a gory film or an overly violent film (although there is some).  It is an emotionally heavy film that will resonate with you long afterwards.  In some ways it's this year's 'Winter's Bone' (but better).  Partially because it's the lesser known, gritty, dark horse contender for this year's Best Picture Oscar.  And partially because it features another standout performance by John Hawkes who may once again receive an Academy Award nomination, and deservedly so.  He's spellbinding and chilling.  And newcomer Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of the twins, gives a really powerful performance as well.

Audiences will likely be split on this film.  Some may hate it for being unsatisfying, and some (like me) will find it to be one of the best of the year.  Regardless, you'll surely want to discuss it afterward, and you won't soon forget it.  And that's about all I ask for.

Grade: A


  1. But I should probably see Moneyball on Monday, right?

  2. I found this weirdly unsettling. Not since The Road have had a more paranoid walk home from the theatre. Although it might have just been seeing Sol Starr vs. Sarah Isringhausen in the present day.