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Martha Marcy May Marlene

3.3 out of 5 stars 207 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE is a powerful psychological thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen as Martha, a young woman rapidly unraveling amidst her attempt to reclaim a normal life after fleeing from a cult and its charismatic leader (John Hawkes). Seeking help from her estranged older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy), Martha is unable and unwilling to reveal the truth about her disappearance. When her memories trigger a chilling paranoia that her former cult could still be pursuing her, the line between Martha's reality and delusion begins to blur.

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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

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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 (207 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B006OV7RQ4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,907 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
I am not a clinician, although from my viewing of this film it exhibited so many elements of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resulting from what happens to a person who has suffered traumatic events. Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) exhibits symptoms of flashbacks, dissociative states of mind and patterns, inappropriate behavior, paranoia, emotional blunting, etc. after she was no longer held there. The content during her life within this cult is quite shocking for the viewer, at least, it was for me. This most probably is what has happened brought on through Martha's life within the cult where she was shocked innumerable times. It may have begun earlier in her life, although it surely became full-blown or chronic while there.

Martha is renamed "Marcy May" upon her arrival with new friend Zoe (Louisa Krause). Patrick (John Hawkes) heads-up this communal cult and is overly quick to take over the new Marcy May after his renaming of her. They are located in the Catskill Mountain area in a very dense wooded area. As is typical with cults, the women remain subservient to the men and are made to have sex with Patrick. In this particular cult, the women are made available to the other male members also. Patrick is quite a haunting persona with a likeness to another cult leader of repugnant reputation. The activities and violence of this group are also reminiscent of that horrific sect​. It provoked those heart pounding memories for me while frightening me all the more.

Martha is able to escape into the trees for her cover during the early morning hours, then taking off and running for her life. She begins to be chased by a fellow member, although eventually gets herself through the woods and into a small town.
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