Thursday, September 29, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene

It's a little fitting that a Red Sox game (even in rain delay) kept me from doing this right after the review was posted to EFC, it's a sort of payback for turning my back on the team for a couple of hours on Monday - they're going to take my attention right back for the night, then lose in spectacular fashion and give me an early start on missing baseball.

Anyway, Martha Marcy May Marlene was the first film in this fall's CineCaché program, co-presented by the Brattle and the Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film; it's the successor to the Sunday Eye Opener and alternates with the DocYard series. It looks like this program will be a pretty good one; they've already got a large chunk of the line-up set and it sounds mostly pretty good. This one was packed, in large part because it was free (which made paying for a series pass before the movie a bit odd), and unfortunately didn't offer much chance for discussion afterward, as the Brattle is doing all they can to pack Pearly Jam Twenty shows in .

I think I got most of what I want to say in the review, anyway. The movie's scheduled to open in about three weeks, and I think that the 21st of October is a semi-national roll-out (it's Fox Searchlight and theaters have been putting displays out, indicating a solid push). Well worth seeing.

Martha Marcy May Marlene

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 26 September 2011 in the Brattle Theatre (CineCaché)

There's maybe a little license taken with the shifting timelines of Martha Marcy May Marlene, in that it's a little convenient that the title character's relevant flashbacks and reactions are triggered in just such a ways as to make both stories fairly linear. But if that's the extent of issues one has with a movie that is excellent in just about every other area, then the filmmakers have done very well indeed; it's no exaggeration to say that Sean Durkin and company have made a gem.

Even though we're only given a brief, but telling, look at the farm in upstate New York where Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) has been living for the past two years at the beginning, she seems to walk away unusually easily, with the housemate sent to town after her not doing much at all to bring her back to Patrick (John Hawkes), the leader of this group. Instead, she's picked up by sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson), who brings Martha to the lake house that she and her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy) have rented for the summer. Right away, it's an uncomfortable fit, with Martha unwilling to talk while Lucy and Ted are slow to realize that her erratic behavior signifies that the bad breakup story she's given them is at the very least incomplete.

The supporting cast in this movie is kind of interesting, in how they tend to invert expectations somewhat. John Hawkes, for instance, never really goes big when one might expect the charismatic cult leader to do so; when he starts lecturing, he seems weak; he's at his most powerful when he's casual (his biggest alpha-male display comes playing guitar). On the other side of the movie, Hugh Dancy makes common sense and compassion seem sort of heartless, while Sarah Paulson does a very nice job of playing Lucy's guilt and shallowness side by side.

Full review at EFC.

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