Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) – 4/5

Well made/decently written and occasionally disturbing little indie film that looks great and features a powerful lead performance from the strangely adorable Elizabeth Olsen, who looks older than her famous sisters despite being almost ten years younger, I think. She’s also taller and exudes a level of maturity that hints of a wisdom beyond her years. And what a sexy voice. She still has a lot of  growing to do as an actress, though, but if this was any indication, she’s well on her way to becoming something quite special. Assuming she continues doing dramas, that is. Children’s movies just might ruin her.

The movie is pretty good for the most part. Some of it is a bit too subtle for its own good; we never really learn much about **SPOILERS** the cult or how she got in it or what its goals are or how it recruits people or even who the head leader guy is really or why or how or what or etc etc. **END SPOILERS** It’s all a big mystery, which is good in some respects as we only know as much as Olsen’s character does, if not less, but bad when you stop to think about it in any logical manner.

Why do these people agree to live in such an oppressive community? Sure, it looks like it has its benefits, but those benefits seem to favor men a whole lot more than they do women. Yet women are the only ones we ever see being recruited. And Olsen, who shows a degree of strength and intelligence here that is beyond her years, really ought to know better. **SPOILERS** Yeah, yeah, she comes from a broken home and yearns for a family blah blah blah. But even that isn’t quite true since her sister is more than happy to help her at the beginning of the film, implying that their relationship, though probably turbulent in some respects, was still one she had available to her.

She even does choose her sister over the cult when things start getting “rough” for her there, so it doesn’t seem like she needed them all that much to begin with really. Her sister clearly loves and cares about her, so why did Olsen decide to join the cult to begin with if her main motivation for doing so, as implied by the film, is her lack of an organized family life? **END SPOILERS** Granted, I’m nitpicking, and I understand that we wouldn’t have much of a story if the sister character hadn’t been there to provide us with a sense of contrast, and it’s not even that big of a flaw in the writing, it’s just something that stood out for me and I felt the need to point out.

There was also the whole thing about **SPOILERS** why she left the cult in the first place. At first, the movie seems to imply that maybe she got pregnant from the cult leader and chose to run away when she realized just how violent they really were. Yet it’s never mentioned directly, only implied, really loosely implied, to the point where maybe I’m misinterpreting things and she just ran away because she was scared, which doesn’t have nearly the same impact.

I think her being pregnant would have made for a better motive to run away than her just suddenly being scared, but I’m not a big Hollywood writer so what do I know? I also didn’t get the whole thing with her sister’s husband; there’s an implication that maybe he’s trying to seduce her and that’s why she’s getting all freaked out and having weird sexual flashbacks, cause she sees the same behaviors in him that she did with the cult leader guy, but I don’t know. **END SPOILERS** I like the fact that the movie threw me for a loop at times, but I can’t figure out if this was intentional on the filmmakers’ part, or accidental due to poor writing. Eh.

Overall, I enjoyed this film, flaws and all. It’s a soft, quiet movie that never feels slow despite not much happening at times. It’s disturbing and well acted, and stays with you long after the credits have rolled. The plot doesn’t always make sense, and I wish they had gone into more detail at times about certain things, or been otherwise clearer, but whatever: it’s a good movie nonetheless.

Elizabeth Olsen is really great here; certainly one to watch, though the film often seemed to really go out of its way to emphasize her breasts for some reason. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s extremely noticeable at times, and probably not accidental. I think it’s to further reinforce the film’s subtle implication that **SPOILERS** she was pregnant. **END SPOILERS** But, since this is never addressed, I’m only guessing. Maybe they just wanted to take advantage of the fact that they had a beautiful lead actress by squeezing as many shots of her cleavage in knowing that if they did so, they’d get the same overall effect without any of the nasty extra fees they’d have to pay her had they actually shot her topless. Either way, well done.

Anyway, good movie. Watch!

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