Martha Marcy May Marlene - DVD and Blu-ray (2011) - Grade C-
Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) joins a cult and finds it easy to live amongst all the others members; while there, she's dubbed Marcy May. But after several random rapes and a home invasion gone wrong (a la Charles Manson and his family), Martha takes off. She finds her older sister, who lives with her rich husband in a very large summer home, and stays with them until she can find something better to do, or a different place to live.
The film constantly and randomly skips back and forth between Martha living at her sister's home and Marcy May living at the cult; sharp edits punctuate different aspects of time and space and the transitions are handled very well, but the film's pacing is far too slow. Clocking in at just over 100 minutes, this story could have been told in 60 minutes because, as this is an indie film, there is a lot of dead air afloat and the film lacks atmosphere overall; and especially in the Martha segments. While living with the cult, the members seem like nice people and a certain feeling of dread should overtake the viewer, but I didn't feel any.
Sadly, not a lot happens in the film that's of any tremendous consequence, in order to ferry the atmosphere to a disturbing place and the only aspects of the film that I'd enjoyed, although lacking in atmosphere but making up in a character driven story, were the ones showcasing Martha as a broken individual. Upon her return to the real world, Martha seems like a completely different person. She interrupts her sister's carnal exercises with her husband by entering their room and sleeping on one corner of their bed; and in another instance she swims naked in the lake, not thinking about spectators or young voyeuristic children.
Something's amiss in Martha's brain and personality and the film doesn't do much with it. It presents her as a broken person but lacks a third act, the one detailing a proper "conclusion". And the sequences with the cult don't show enough craziness to make the viewer understand why Martha has become so utterly damaged and deranged.
MMMM is a nice take on the creepy, cult-themed film but falls short from early on. However, on the plus side Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister to the Olsen twins but the talented one in the family) gives a very good performance, played with a terrific amount of realism. She has a lot of potential in becoming a terrific actor in the future and while currently still in her teens, she has a long road ahead of her. I see a bright future for her even though this film doesn't do much to help.
I don't have any actual film recommendations for this week, what with Tower Heist, J.Edgar, and MMMM being the big blockbusters this week and that they're lackluster, at best. So keep waiting in hungry anticipation for next week!