Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Glass of Wine + a Nice Little Tale of Psychological Terror

{Ok, I don't think this post needs a spoiler alert exactly, but it does mainly focus on reactions to Martha Marcy May Marlene. So, put that in your pipe and smoke it.*

*DON'T roll it in a cigar. Filthy, horrid things.}

Last night, I needed to just chill and put everything aside, so I watched the next film in my Netflix queue, "Martha Marcy May Marlene." {Check out the trailer here} Because what says unwinding like a movie about a woman who escapes a cult, but remains psychologically shattered? What, indeed. Those of you who know me have already said, "duh, of course," are rolling your eyes and wondering when I am ever going to start creating a less punitive queue.

In my defense, my last one was Bridesmaids! A comedy! And I liked it! But this...not so funny. It *is* fascinating, though and the untwinned, less mogully Olsen woman (Elizabeth) certainly deserved the accolades she got for the starring role. Olsen as Martha is haunting, remote and also irritating in a self-absorbed psychologically unbalanced way.*  You don't learn any specifics of how she became a part of the commune and the present flows into flashbacks with a disconcerting ease.

*Wow, that sounds bad, doesn't it? The mentally disturbed are SO selfish, it's always about them! But I guess what I'm trying to get at is that her sister and brother-in-law take her in and do their best with her and you totally believe how frustrated everyone is, her sister feels rejected b/c here's her sister, who dropped out of her life for TWO years, and now she's HERE, but she's totally walled off and clearly bad things are going/have gone/ down. Which is worse, the pain caused by a loved one's absence, or the pain caused by their fragmented & unavailable presence?

John Hawkes is suitably disturbing as cult leader Patrick, though at times, I gained more faith in his charisma through his followers' reactions than from him playing the role as blindingly charismatic. Maybe that's purposeful, too, though. Honestly, I was disturbed by him in this role -- not saying he was miscast -- because I'm still holding onto him as his character in Deadwood and he was as close to a good person as you could find on the evil series. A silly reaction, too because he was riveting -- and hella menacing -- as meth addict Teardrop in Winter's Bone (love! that! dark movie, too! And if you're gonna see Hunger Games, you need to see Jennifer Lawrence's amazing role in that...).

Screenwriter Sean Durkin also deserves credit for giving Hawkes and the rest of the staff good material to bend to their wills. Almost everything Patrick says is simultaneously superficially magnanimous/warm/supportive and manipulative/controlling/undercutting; and while I was on the verge of writing that it was never overdone, the scenes I was going to make note of...would seem overdone, if I were to write about them. Maybe this speaks to the nuanced strength of the actors involved? Maybe I'm totally losing my thread and just swimming around here.  Hmmm.Cults! Why are they so fascinating? Discuss. Last night I was thinking that it was the intimation of hedonism, combined with such rigid, artificial control. The psychological breaking down of individuals, so that they may be refashioned for the good of the collective (or more realistically, the megalomaniac at the head). While the latter part is the territory of the entire movie, it was also nicely (or *duh* too easily? again, now I'm of two minds) encapsulated in Patrick's reaction to hearing Martha's name:

"Martha...You look like a Marcy May..." And you know that's what he'll call her from now on. The remaking, the claiming of identity, starts happening immediately. And done with a nice, flirtatious touch. Too pat? Possibly. But somehow it works. She is annexed, as the incoming females are, until they are in it deep enough to inculcate other women themselves, in a nice, sisterly way...And clearly there are rewards there: a sense of community, the belief that they have something special there, they're working toward a better way (gulp) of existence...

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