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Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Published: Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Updated: Thursday, November 3, 2011 18:11

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Jody Le

Sarah Paulson (left) and Elizabeth Olsen star in "Martha Marcy May Marlene."

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes

Directed by Sean Durkin

Rated R

Grade: B-


Movies that deal with cult members and the goings on inside a cult can be a drag. "Martha Marcy May Marlene" surely is, but its saving grace is Elizabeth Olsen, who plays the lead in the film.

Olsen, the younger sister of the famed Olsen twins, plays Martha, a 20-something woman who has just broken free of her ties to an abusive cult in upstate New York. She goes to live with her older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson), and her new husband Ted (Hugh Dancy).

Socially awkward and inappropriate as ever, Martha has a hard time becoming reintroduced into the "normal" world after living in a scrunched farm house with about 30 other people. Now, she has her own bed, shower and is living in her sister's huge country house in rural Connecticut.

But even with the mental, emotional and physical distance from the cult, Martha can't get away from her memories, especially involving Patrick (the striking John Hawkes), the creepy leader of the cult.

Olsen shines so brightly in her first feature film that it's hard to think she won't go on to do better and better in her next projects. And the scenery in this movie, largely set on the east coast, where lush greenery and fields of grass reign supreme, is captured beautifully thanks to primo cinematography.

Writer/director Sean Durkin writes such deep characters, it's almost as if the movie is based on a book, but it's not. This is his first major project as well, and it's really complex for a first go around.

The artistic flair of flashing back and forth between Martha's old and new life is cool, and Olsen acts as if she's a veteran – both save this film from being a total bring-you-down sort of movie. But, the subject matter in general is hard to digest, and will likely leave viewers feeling depressed post-film.

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