Sunday, July 31, 2011

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (Sean Durkin, 2011)

***½
USA
Elizabeth Olsen escapes from an enigmatic cult led by an even creepier than usual John Hawkes, but finds life on the other side even more emotionally constricting.

Minute by minute this is transfixing movie making with an arresting star turn. But ultimately it is too artificial and 'written' to be credible as a realistic psychological treatise, and it has too many gaps and convenient elisions to be a fully satisfying spin on genre. The cult seems like a rather thin invention (a bit of Mormon compound here, a bit of Manson family there, throw in some virgins with flawless complexion, and cut to the orgy).

The closing scenes are particularly unnerving and ensure that the film and the titular character are uncommonly difficult to shake off. But this in turn encourages you to further reflect on the preceeding narrative, which becomes all the more frustating the more you dwell on it.

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