My Grade: A-
- This is one of those films that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. From the opening frame to the final cut, there’s an eeriness about the atmosphere that creeps under our skin and a repressed tension that totally hooks us. Though this tension keeps building up and is never quite relieved, the film surprisingly never buckles under its own pressure. It remains intense throughout and keeps a steady tone. Also, with almost no depiction of violence, gore or really, anything gross at all, Martha Marcy May Marlene scared the crap out of me.
- Elizabeth Olsen is going to be a major film star. There have been quite a few “it” girls in recent years, boasting a combination of acting chops and beauty, and vying for attention on the account of their newcomer status. None of them have proved quite as talented as Olsen (at least on their first try) and surely not as beautiful either. I mean, this girl’s physique is made for the big screen. This face can really belong to any character and it’ll me feel like to one else can take on that role. In Martha Marcy May Marlene, she’s the mirrored image of her troubled soul, her wide and bright face masking her anxiety but her eyes letting out her haunted innocence.
As the younger sister of the noisy twins, it was always going to be difficult for Elizabeth to make a name for herself, but with this nuanced and mesmerizing performance, and all the buzz she’s been making, I have a feeling we might refer to those two as Elizabeth's older sisters in a little while.
- And while I’m on the subject of newcomers, how about that Sean Durkin? How does anyone keep so much control over their audience in their first film?
Durkin has a grip over every element of this movie. With careful framings, seamless transitions between the past and the present, and lots of mileage from the architecture (and the juxtaposition of the confined spaces of the cult house and the open spaces of Lucy’s) he shows that he understands compositions and the formal development of the medium. But equally important are the subtleties that make the film truly outstanding. A touch here, a glance there, just how a floor creaks, or how the characters utter a certain word; it all comes together perfectly.
- We’ve come to expect John Hawkes to be regularly amazing in everything he does and because of his consistent quality, it's easy to take him for granted. He finally got noticed last year with an Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone. As the cult leader in Martha Marcy May Marlene, he’s every bit as impressive and even more frightening as he was there. I’m definitely curious to see what he’s got in the bag next. Also, the man's a terrific singer.