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Martha Marcy May Marlene (Blu-ray Review)

10 Feb, 2012 By: Angelique Flores

Street 2/21/12
Box Office $2.9 million
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
‘R’ for disturbing violent and sexual content, nudity and language.
Stars Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson.

It’s easy to rattle off the names of notorious cult leaders, but not so easy to name those who followed them.

The eerie, dark drama Martha Marcy May Marlene explores what happens to a young woman after she escapes from a Manson Family-esque cult.

Elizabeth Olsen (sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley) stars as the traumatized Martha. After spending two years in a cult led by a middle-aged man named Patrick, she frantically calls her sister, Lucy, to pick her up.

Martha had not spoken to Lucy during those years and had a strained relationship with her prior to that, following the death of their mother. 

Lucy takes Martha in and quickly witnesses Martha’s disturbing behavior, from sudden outbursts of anger to walking in on Lucy and her husband during sex and curling up on the other corner of their bed. She walks around like a zombie, sometimes spouting off the self-serving, absurd ideology that Patrick indoctrinated into her.

Martha’s life with the cult, who called her Marcy May or Marlene, is told in flashbacks that she remembers from the horrible events that took place. The cult lives in the middle of nowhere, living like half-starved hippies begging and stealing to survive. Patrick has her drugged so he can rape her, and fellow cult member Zoe brainwashes Martha into thinking she was lucky to have had her first time with Patrick. When one of their robberies ends with the murder of an innocent man, Martha is pushed over the edge.

Martha is so disconnected, it’s difficult to sympathize with her and connect on any emotional level. You never see what she may have been like prior to the trauma.

The film plays like a long episode of a TV crime show, with an abrupt ending. 

The DVD includes the short Mary Last Seen, also from director Sean Durkin. It serves as a good prologue to the feature film as it is about how teenager Mary willingly comes to live with the cult.

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