We have all, pretty much, heard of the famous Olsen Twins - Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen. They grew up in ront of our eyes on Full House and Two of a Kind. They were cute and Mary Kate still takes a stab at acting from time to time. Her last two products were "The Wackness" and "Beastly".


Isn't it odd that the one sibling no one ever heard of can turn in an Oscar worthy performance. Elizabeth Olsen, the twins anonymous little sister plays the titular role as a compelling young woman who doesn't have a mind of her own.


Olsen is Martha who has just escaped from a cult commune in the Catskills of New York. During her escape she calls her big sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) who lives in the ideal home in Connecticut with her ideal husband Ted (Hugh Dancy). After Martha has spent a few years in the spartan environment of commune living, this is like taking a junk yard dog from the scrap year to the land of milk and milk bones.

We learn how Martha came to live at the commune when she was seduced by the charismatic leader Patrick (John Hawkes) who turns her into his personal whore after cleansing her (with his penis). It is at this point she gets the name Marlene from the other girls.


But Patrick doesn't like the name and says she looks more like a Marcy May. It is one of the little things he does to not only remove her identity, but keep her confused and thus his concubine.


But now she is with her sister and while trying to deal with her confusion by herself, instead of seeking help, we see bits and pieces of the brainwashing pushing through when she points out the waste her sister and brother -in-law create. Why, their home is big enough to house a few communes!


And that is basically the plot of the film. That is also the beauty of the film... it's simplicity. We watch as Martha is tormented by her own demons and the demons planted in her head by Patrick and the cult members; she literally dissolves in front of our eyes.


When she begins to think the cult has tracked her down at her sisters house and is just lurking bryond the bushes, you feel her fear without seeing anything...just the suggestion of danger is enough.


"Marth Marcy May Marlene" recalls the Jonestown mass suicide and the Patty Hearst kidnapping. We see the inner workings of a cult without ever joining one.


Elizabeth Olsen is mesmerizing as the victim and Hawkes is spooky as the cult leader that seems like Charlie Manson and what that might have been like. Writer-director Sean Durkin takes us all the way there and leaves us questioning how fragile an identity really is.


"Martha Marcy May Marlene" won Sean Durkin the Directors award at Sundance and you can see why. You will explore and experience the total mind fuck.   -- GEOFF BURTON