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 (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.
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
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
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
She looks around at the thick woods and a handful of nice
homes that appear to be empty now. No one else is
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
Are you okay?
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
CUT TO:BLACK ……….The End
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