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Martha Marcy May Marlene

195 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In her stunning feature film debut, Elizabeth Olsen delivers "an electrifying, star-is-born performance" (Rolling Stone) in this gripping psychological thriller that is "far and away one of the year's best!" (Associated Press) After escaping from a dangerous cult and the watchful eye of its charismatic leader (Academy Awardr Nominee John Hawkes), a young woman named Martha (Olsen) tries to reclaim a normal life with her family. But the haunting memories from Martha's past trigger a chilling paranoia - and nowhere seems safe as the fragile line between her reality and delusions begin to blur.


Powered by an amazing central performance by Elizabeth Olsen, this unstuck-in-time mood piece stands as the most unnerving kind of horror film: the sort where the unease builds and builds, without any easy resolutions. Olsen plays the multiple-named title character, a member of a remote commune held in the thrall of its leader (the excellent John Hawkes, deepening both the menace and charisma he displayed in Winter's Bone). When she temporarily regains her senses and escapes, she ends up under the care of her sister (Sarah Paulson), a well-to-do newlywed who is understandably baffled by her sibling's three-year disappearance. As Martha attempts to make sense of her new surroundings and come to terms with her past, she begins to receive menacing hints that her former friends may not be so willing to let her move on. Writer-director Sean Durkin makes an astonishingly assured feature debut, moving between reality, fantasy, and memory with an unpredictable, hazy grace. Aided by a spooky sound design and some ominous camerawork, the filmmaker has fashioned a gripping puzzle of a movie, one where the out-of-order storytelling creates a whole greater than its parts. Viewers expecting a clear-cut narrative may well be frustrated by the paths that Martha Marcy May Marlene chooses to take, most notably in the final open-ended shot, which raises a number of potential unresolved questions without any answers. Those in a susceptible mood, however, may find moments from the film lingering in their consciousness for some time. The disc includes a memorably creepy song performed by Hawkes, a brief yet fascinating look at cult mechanics, and a haunting short by Durkin, which serves as a semi-prequel to the film. Be prepared for discussion afterwards. --Andrew Wright

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Elizabeth Olsen, Hugh Dancy, Brady Corbet, Christopher Abbott
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Fox Searchlight
  • DVD Release Date: February 21, 2012
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (195 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B006OV7RQ4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,891 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Tom Birkenstock on January 15, 2012
Format: Blu-ray
Martha Marcy May Marlene marks the debut of two talents, the director, Sean Durkin, and the actress, Elizabeth Olsen. Both actor and director show a kind of assured performance that seems relegated to those who are either new to a scene, when talent has been building up for some time and only now has had a chance to unveil itself, or to older creative types, who have enough success behind them that they no longer fear failure (the in-between is usually the tricky part). Elizabeth Olsen (and here I'm required to tell you that she is the younger sister to the famed Full House Olsen twins) plays Martha, a girl who has spent an indeterminate amount of time in a cult hidden away in upstate New York. She eventually flees the confines of the commune and is taken in by her sister and brother-in-law who own a spacious lake house in Connecticut.

From here the film is divided into two narratives, one chronicling Martha's ordeal in the Manson-like collective and the other detailing her return to polite society at her sister's place. We learn from the former narrative that the cult takes in runaways and is overseen by a charismatic leader, Patrick, played by John Hawkes. While the cult members bandy about pseudo-New Wave jargon, we hear talk of energies, the specific philosophy of the cult remains vague. As one might expect, Patrick has intimate access to most of the women, as do the other men on the compound, to varying degrees. The cult members share duties taking care of children and tending to a garden, and they hope one day to go fully off the grid.

The second narrative follows Martha as she attempts to reconnect with her sister Lucy and return to normalcy. For Martha, the lake house is an even more foreign world than the cult. She still plays by the rules set up for her by Patrick.
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68 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Miller VINE VOICE on January 17, 2012
Format: Blu-ray
A young woman called Marcy May (played by newcomer Elizabeth Olsen, remember her name) flees from an abusive cult and calls her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) to pick her up. Her sister, who calls her Martha, hasn't seen her in over a year and finds Martha deliberately vague about where she has been. Lucy brings her to the large home she shares with her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy) and Martha's time in the cult is revealed through intercut flashbacks. Branded Marcy May by Patrick (John Hawkes), the charismatic leader, the commune consists of few men and many women, most from troubled backgrounds. The women are assigned individual duties, but the one they all share is to sleep with Patrick. The film wisely avoids giving too many details about the cult itself and what its basis is, but fills in all the necessary details otherwise.

This 2011 indie thriller marks the debut of writer/director Sean Durkin who has fashioned a quiet, powerful psychological drama that introduces the world to a terrific new actress. Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of two very famous twins, turns in a bold, Oscar-caliber piece of acting that allows her to successfully break from the stigma of having world-famous siblings. She's a remarkable talent and establishes her own niche as an actress, becoming a star on her own terms. The film is strong on its own merits, but, once you've seen it, it's hard to forget Olsen and even easier to forget her famous sisters.

This is a terrific debut for Durkin. Labeled as a thriller, it moves in a low-key fashion that doesn't go for easy "thrills" and instead opts for a deeply unsettling tone. The story, which uses shifting timelines in an intentionally disorienting way, never clues you in to where it's heading, but holds your attention rapt getting there.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By M. Oleson TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 27, 2012
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Put newcomer Elizabeth Olsen on the list of brilliant young actresses filling the movie screen these days. In this psychological thriller, twentyish Martha Marlene (Olsen) leaves home after her mother dies. We don't know why, but she severs contact with her older sister, Lucy (excellent Sarah Paulson) who is married to Ted (Hugh Dancy). Somehow she ends up at a commune of sorts, headed by one of those Charles Manson types, but without the visible menace. Patrick (good as usual John Hawkes) clearly runs the show for his collective of young women and young men. What happens to them when they get older? We do know that occasionally children are born, but against all odds they are always boys. Hmmm.

After Martha (now renamed Marcy May by Patrick) is sexually abused, she decides to slip away into the woods. She finds her way into town and calls her sister on a pay phone. It's been 2 years but Martha doesn't know where she is. She thinks it's in upstate New York. Huh? Lucy, at their vacation house in Connecticut, goes to pick up Martha and returns with her to their picture perfect house on a picture perfect lake. Their primary residence is in New York City where they work.

Martha drifts in and out of rational behavior, often reverting to scenes of her experience at the compound. This gives us some insight of her plight, but we're never quite sure of her state of instability. I found it unrealistic that she wouldn't remember basic manners or that skinny dipping in front of your just-met brother-in-law would be frowned upon. After all she was only away for 2 years, but in this time it seems reality has left her. This leads to paranoia as to whether Patrick and the gang would go after her.
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