Martha Marcy May Marlene
Director
Sean Durkin
Writer
Sean Durkin
Actors
Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy, Brady Corbet, Maria Dizzia, Julia Garner, Louisa Krause, Christopher Abbott, Adam David Thompson, Gregg Burton, Allen McCullough, Lauren Molina, Tobias Segal
Runtime
1 h 41 min
Release Date
21 October 2011
Genres
Drama, Thriller
Overview
After several years of living with a cult, Martha finally escapes and calls her estranged sister, Lucy, for help. Martha finds herself at the quiet Connecticut home Lucy shares with her new husband, Ted, but the memories of what she experienced in the cult make peace hard to find. As flashbacks continue to torment her, Martha fails to shake a terrible sense of dread, especially in regard to the cult's manipulative leader.
  • Rating

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE

Martha Marcy May Marlene is an unsatisfying and frustrating 2011 thriller by a first-time writer and director, Sean Durkin.  The lead character is Elizabeth Olsen (MCU’s Scarlet Witch, WandaVision), and this film is her first starring role.  The presence of Elizabeth Olsen is probably the only reason this film is still around in 2020.  After this film, Elizabeth Olsen starred in various film genres before becoming known internationally as Wanda Maximoff, aka, Scarlet Witch.  Currently (early 2021), Elizabeth Olsen is starring as Wanda Maximoff in the unique WandaVision (on Disney+), where she is adding more people to the MCU. More on WandaVision some other day.

I call this film Martha Marcy May Marlene unsatisfying since Elizabeth Olsen’s character Martha/Marcy May/Marlene never really progresses, and the ending is ambiguous and unfulfilling.  However, Elizabeth Olsen’s character received praise for her acting – which I hope is not because she took her clothes off so often – although that also is never really satisfying.

Martha Marcy May Marlene thriller

Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) © 2011 Cunningham & Maybach Films − All right reserved.

In Martha Marcy May Marlene, Elizabeth’s Olsen’s character, Martha, is known as Marcy May and Marlene Lewis by the cult where she lives.  After two years, she escapes the cult.  Flashbacks throughout show her life improving some in the cult before being shattered.  After escaping, she stays with her estranged sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and Lucy’s new husband Ted (Hugh Dancy) at a lakefront vacation home in Connecticut.

Martha Marcy May Marlene thriller

Lucy (Sarah Paulson) & Martha © 2011 Cunningham & Maybach Films − All right reserved.

The creepy cult leader Patrick (John Hawkes, The Peanut Butter Falcon) and the constantly building music keeps you anticipating dramatic events.  You are always fearful for Martha.  However, not a lot happens, and the lack of adequate communication with her sister Lucy leads to frustration.  But to be fair, Elizabeth Olsen, playing Martha, does make you feel empathy for an afraid,  confused and brainwashed woman, using mainly her body language and look away stares.  But the story unfolds tediously slow – and it doesn’t entirely develop – hence the ambiguous and unfulfilling ending.

The 2011 thriller Martha

Martha Marcy May Marlene thriller

Cult Life

Marcy May Marlene provides only a few thrills, the story never develops, the character Martha doesn’t grow, and the ending is ambiguous.  However, it you enjoy the MCU it is worth watching to see Elizabeth Olsen’s first movie role.

 

When Ambiguous, Read the Script - The Biggest Spoiler: The Ending

The ending to this thriller comes quickly and with purposeful confusion.  I refer to the script when I’m confused.  The two ending scenes are in the script below.  Martha, her sister Lucy and Ted are leaving the vacation home to go home.  They plan to put Martha in some sort of facility when they get home.  Martha decides to “go for a swim” on a day too cold to swim (the viewer anticipates a drowning).

She sees someone looking at her, so Martha quickly leaves the water. Martha thinks it is someone from the cult trying to kill or capture her.  But there is no real evidence to believe that; she is just scared.

The final scene – they are in the car driving home, and she sees the same man at the lake running to his car – and he follows them (as the viewer, you are unsure if it is the same guy, but the script lets you know it is the same guy).

Then it ends

 

THE SCRIPT

EXT. LAKE HOUSE DOCK – DAY

Martha stands on the dock. She strips down to her

underwear and dives in.



Martha swims out into the lake. She drops under the water

and out of sight, a burst of bubbles pop up to the

surface. A few seconds pass by and she is not coming up.




Suddenly she breaks back through the water and gasps for

air.




She looks around at the thick woods and a handful of nice

homes that appear to be empty now. No one else is

swimming.




Martha sees a scruffy MAN sitting on a neighboring dock,

he seems familiar. He is in his mid twenties, his jeans

are rolled up and his feet dangle in the water. His shirt

is slung over his shoulder and he smokes a cigarette. He

looks directly at Martha. They make eye contact.




He finishes his smoke, throws the cigarette in the water,

puts on his shirt and just sits there.




Martha swims back to the house.

 

          INT. TED’S CAR – DAY

 

Martha sits in the back seat of Ted and Lucy's car. Ted

drives and Lucy sits up front. They drive up the driveway

and turn out onto the road. Ted and Lucy talk. Martha

gets a concerned look on her face. Ted slams on the

breaks.


                          TED

Jesus Christ.

 

                          LUCY

Are you okay?

 

                          TED

Yeah.

 

                          LUCY

Fucking idiot. What was he doing?




The MAN from the dock walks past the car. They almost hit

him. As they drive away, Martha turns to see him get into

the a brown car, start the engine and drive. The car

drives behind Ted's car.




Martha looks forward for a long moment, then turns back

again to see that he is still there.




She is frozen with fear, she thinks about saying

something but then stops herself. Instead she sits in

silence.


           CUT TO:BLACK  ……….The End

 

Movie Details

Director
Sean Durkin
Writer
Sean Durkin
Actors
Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy, Brady Corbet, Maria Dizzia, Julia Garner, Louisa Krause, Christopher Abbott, Adam David Thompson, Gregg Burton, Allen McCullough, Lauren Molina, Tobias Segal
Runtime
1 h 41 min
Release Date
21 October 2011
Genres
Drama, Thriller
Overview
After several years of living with a cult, Martha finally escapes and calls her estranged sister, Lucy, for help. Martha finds herself at the quiet Connecticut home Lucy shares with her new husband, Ted, but the memories of what she experienced in the cult make peace hard to find. As flashbacks continue to torment her, Martha fails to shake a terrible sense of dread, especially in regard to the cult's manipulative leader.

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