Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review : Martha Marcy May Marlene

The film Martha Marcy May Marlene is set to have a theatrical release October 21st, 2011. I would recommend it. It is a story about a young woman who has been with a cult but escapes into the care of her sister.

Due to Adam's sweet SF Film Society membership we got to see a sneak peak of the film this Wednesday night. The director Sean Durkin and the lead actress Elizabeth Olsen were both there.

The Film : Tense. Very very tense. Multiple people in the theater used that word. But not so much with the slasher style tension. It's just a gripping story. Well acted, well paced, great story telling, and an interesting subject matter. I'm normally an escapist kinda' film fan that enjoys CG monsters and... well.. awesome CG in general. This is the completely opposite of such films (not a spec of CG in sight-- apparently made on a budget less then $1 mil) although it doesn't go so far as to be based on a specific real life event. Which is good.

I don't want to say too much about the story because knowing nothing allows it to unfurl wonderfully. I want to recommend it but it's both tense and intense in an emotional way. I would say if you like "movies" that can be "complicated", you should see it. Not a whole lot really happens in thriller-ish way... It's all about the characters. But that's good. The film doesn't really need to be seen on the big screen, but I would recommend seeing it in the theater anyway. Give Mr. Durkin money so he can continue to make excellent films like this. I would say that I walked away from the film contemplating things. Some things about the story and some things about the complications of life.

In the end, let me use comparisons to describe it rather then a direct potentially spoiler-y description. Character interaction like Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme) with tension flavored like Funny Games (Michael Haneke). I felt an anxiousness similar to what I feel in a Tarantino film, but Adam disagreed.

The Talk : Hosted by the irritating fellow whose name escapes both Adam and I at the moment, but who've suffered through before. Thankfully he asked few questions and the ones he did weren't that painful. Highlight of his flubbing : "Next question... the gentleman in the back.... I mean lady.... ... ... I mean man" when addressing a single individual whose gender was in no way ambiguous in my opinion (other then some shoulder length blond hair).

The director was awesome. He wasn't hilarious like some directors we've seen, or overly insightful or deep-- despite attempted prodding from the audience (a you-had-to-be-there joke). But he was very coherent, gave lengthy and valuable answers, and overall seemed like he had a very good head on his shoulders. The film had been made with less then a million in budget, stemming from six investors. Very start-up-y, which is cute. This is his first feature length film (two shorts previous). He wrote the script himself and said he was loosely inspired/helped by a friend (of a friend?) who had gone through a cult experience. The cult no so much, but the emotional reactions and confusion afterwards. Also he appears rather shy and nervous in his posture and mannerisms, but it in no way reached his words or voice.

The actress was also awesome. This is surprising since often at the events we've attended the actors tend not to... contribute that much. To be fair, they are often given shittier questions. Elizabeth Olsen (yes, of *those* Olsens... she's a younger sister... which they mentioned not once- only realized it via imdb) seems just as practical and level headed as the director. She made it clear she enjoyed the roll but in no way associated with "method" acting. It was also interesting to hear that the script she was given was so precise and complete that she never really improvised or need help figuring out the character. It was all right there, in the script. As a fellow audience member mentioned, I too would be very interested in reading a copy of said script. A great speaker who took initiative and control of the conversation at points, in a good way. The talk of how well the grew got along during filming and what a great "family" they were was hilarious in my opinion given what we just saw.

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