Thursday, December 08, 2011

Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Just as Junebug was Amy Adams's introduction to big-time filmmaking, MMMM -- could the movie's title be any more difficult to remember? -- will serve as the coming-out party for Elizabeth Olsen, who appears to have inherited double the acting ability of a standard-issue Olsen sister.

The remarkably expressive and penetrating Olsen plays Martha, a former member of an abusive cult who's gone AWOL for two years before crashing with her sister (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy). Lacking a purpose or sense of self, Martha struggles to conform to social boundaries, as well as to discover her sexual identity.

Given to spontaneous, bizarre actions such as stripping bare to go for a swim or leaping atop a counter, Martha annoys the hell out of her hosts, but earns sympathy because she's never quite worthy of the scorn she receives from either. Director T. Sean Durkin juggles Martha's hellish flashbacks and visions, working in tandem with Olsen to create a tantalizing psychological smorgasbord that dares the audience to piece together its mysteries. A bold and daring film, MMMM -- I will never remember that damned name -- is one of the indie gems of 2011.                             

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