Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: "Martha Marcy May Marlene" (2011)

Sean Durkin's Martha Marcy May Marlene is a searing post-traumatic recollection of a young girl's tattered, turbid psyche that burns and unsettles with a protracted, detached sense of dread. 
Utilizing an effective, seamless flashback structure, the film charts and recounts the cruel and peculiar events involving the inconclusive title character (Elizabeth Olsen) and her time spent with a grubby, ruthless farmhouse cult juxtaposed with her later attempt at re-entry with her married, affluent older sister (Sarah Paulson).
Navigating potentially sleazy and exploitative material, the film's structure (after hints of tedium) quickly becomes elegant, its enumerated backwards glances ensconced and foreboding. (Props to Jody Lee Lipes' stunning, frightening lensing and Zachary Stuart-Pontier's seamless editing, which so deftly shifts between time that the effect is nearly negligible.)
Olsen, the younger sister to those ever present pint-sized former child-star twins, has quite a coming out party in this her screen debut. As complex as her fleeting nicknames, her Martha is a vulnerable, lethargic-yet-raging soul, a seething ball of anguish that the camera can never seem to shake.
As the film progresses, promise of past and present colliding makes for anxious, nervy paranoia that debut filmmaker Sean Durkin exploits into a perturbed, teasing conclusion. [A]

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic review! Saw this recently and absolutely loved it - the editing and cinematography are just mesmerizing, and Olsen is superb. Can't wait to discuss it with more people once it gets a little more widely seen.