Despite the Sundance hype I was a bit skeptical given Elizabeth Olsen’s pedigree but from the get-go of Martha Marcy May Marlene I was immediately convinced of her brainwashed banter and constant fear of this cult and it’s scrawny Manson like leader (John Hawkes) who’s spell she falls under especially after he dupes her into thinking he wrote a song for her. The only way to explain Elizabeth Olsen’s creepy performance is she channeled her twin Sisters’ long struggle and desperation on finding their own identities after Full House.
But what I found even more disturbing and intriguing was that I was not alone in my sick obsession of cults (excluding Scientology and the Blue Oyster Cult). Not only have I made the pilgrimage of the ruins of Spahn Ranch but I also trekked Badlands to the actual house of Heaven’s Gate. Olsen’s impressive acting debut is a haunting convoluted portrayal of an innocence lost, a yearning for acceptance, a defiant need to escape, and a search for identity, hence the title of multiple names. Also impressive is the writing and directorial debut of Sean Durkin who adeptly paces the unfolding story of seduction and fear between the organic dilapidated Amish farm like commune and the lakeside modernity glass house of her Sister and Brother in-law.
But as engaging as Olsen was, her character’s world view was as disposable as the Real Housewives. I’m not one to drink the Kool Aid or occupy Wall Street, and communal living is for sheep, so maybe that’s why I identified with that uptight Brit (Hugh Dancy) more. Plus I wouldn’t call Olsen’s detox cleansing but just plain sodomy. Nevertheless, the movie did tap into my primal fears of being seduced by the Dark side of the Force and losing a grip on reality. But then again if I was given a sinister name like Sexy Sadie or Squeaky then who knows what I’d be capable of. I do hope Olsen is able to replace dopey Scarlett Johansson as the new busty blonde with some actual talent and hopefully won’t turn out like her Sisters and Cease to Exist.
These Girls have some major Daddy issues.