Martha Marcy May Marlene
Raise your hand if you haven’t been indoctrinated into a cult at least once in your life. That’s what I thought. Now that the Rapture has come and gone a half dozen times over the past few years and the Branch Davidians lie slumbering peacefully under a pile of alcohol, tobacco and firearms, America’s fascination with cults and their charismatic leaders has shifted to politics and its…charismatic leaders. This is part of why “Martha Marcy May Marlene” feels like an anachronistic throwback of a film, the bachelor uncle that you only ever see during the holidays or when dad has to sign some kind of consent form for the next stage of his/her gender re-assignment surgery.
Adding even more gloss to the “Martha Marcy May Marlene”’ retro sheen is the decision to cast Elizabeth Olsen as the lead, or as I like to call her, “the forgotten Olsen twin with tits.” Until her debut in this film, Elizabeth Olsen was perhaps best known for being the only member of her family not implicit in the death of former actor Heath Ledger, but now she can add “softcore skin sensation” to her resume. It’s kind of creepy seeing a topless Olsen sister, because you expect Bob Saget to come around the corner at any moment with his pants off holding a bucket of Crisco. Still, since we never got Candace Cameron, and since John Stamos is too pretty to be photographed without a leather jacket, I suppose the Olsen That Time Forgot is an acceptable consolation prize. Think of her as the fresh-faced do-over for all of your stunted 90’s fantasies.
As for the movie itself – well, there’s nothing new here. Hugh Dancy reminds us all what Sean Penn would look like if he moved to the Catskills and lost 75-lbs, while the rest of the cast is simply more of the same dysfunctional family bullshit that drove most of us to consider joining a cult in our youth in the first place. Compared to the frigid reception Olsen’s character is given by her rescuing sister and her green card husband, it’s no wonder that she spent two years preferring the comfort of her sister wives and the questionable personal hygiene that upstate New York seems to serve up so well.
Instead of wasting your money on “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” I recommend breaking out some of your old home movies and getting re-acquainted with the people who used to be your family before you alienated them by getting a nose piercing and pledging your soul to Jah in college. At least the pain of all of those lost years pretending you loved reggae will help dull the eye-searing effect of your questionable teenage fashion choices.
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