Pin It

Family Ties 

'Martha Marcy' a grim look at cult's damaging effect


11.02.11


The ominous Martha Marcy May Marlene has a tongue-twister title, but it's a title worth learning. Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of the Olsen twins, plays a girl unstuck in time, completely hollowed out by a cult leader named Patrick (John Hawkes).

After she escapes from the compound in upstate New York, Martha is traumatized by memories of what was done to her, and what she did to others. Martha's estranged sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) puts the penniless girl up in her lakeside vacation house. The vacation turns dismal: severely traumatized and yet unable to put her ordeal in words, Martha thwarts her sister's attempts to connect.

What happened to Martha is cloudy and half-remembered, though not all Gothic; much of it she spent as an underfed female drone subject to murderous threats.

And probably not coincidentally, director Sean Durkin gives the cult leader a Manson air. Patrick looks startlingly like Charlie as the older jailbird, and he considers himself a folk musician, too, just as Manson did. Durkin seems to understand that what makes this character interesting isn't his followers' crimes, but the hold the leader has over his followers. The film's turning point has Patrick making his family listen to a song he's written about Martha, whom he's renamed Marcy May. "You're just a picture on the wall," he sings.

In one of the year's key performances, Olsen gives us a memorable portrait of a girl split in pieces. What I liked best here was the note of arrogance that comes in cult living: who else can experience love and life as well as those within the width of the circle? The film shows us where the attraction lies: the cracks in normal society, the fissures large enough for a spider to crawl in . . .

'Martha Marcy May Marlene' opens Friday, Nov. 4, at Summerfield Cinemas. 551 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa. www.summerfieldcinemas.com.






  • 'Martha Marcy' a grim look at cult's damaging effect

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Latest in Movies

  • Time Machine

    'Boyhood' chronicles a fictional family over 13 years
    • Jul 30, 2014
  • 'Violette' Femme

    Emanuelle Devos gives one of the best performances of the year
    • Jul 23, 2014
  • Bad Match

    Director Rob Reiner falters in 'And So It Goes'
    • Jul 16, 2014
  • More »

More by Richard von Busack

  • Time Machine

    'Boyhood' chronicles a fictional family over 13 years
    • Jul 30, 2014
  • 'Violette' Femme

    Emanuelle Devos gives one of the best performances of the year
    • Jul 23, 2014
  • More »

Find It

Submit an event

Boho Beat

July 31: Dr. Abacus at Smiley’s Saloon

Aug. 2: Petaluma Music Festival

More »

Facebook Activity

Most Commented

  • Under the Radar

    Santa Rosa's Live Musicians Co-op expands its vision
    • Jun 25, 2014
  • It's a Hoot

    Hootenanny takes over the Arlene Francis Center Charlie Swanson
    • Jun 11, 2014
  • More »

Twitter

Read more @nbaybohemian

Copyright © 2014 Metro Newspapers. All rights reserved.

Website powered by Foundation