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artha Marcy May Marlene (2011)Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

           The deeply troubled young woman in this film has four names, which signals that the story is about the loss of personal identity. "Martha" (Elizabeth Olsen) is her given name. The charismatic leader of the cult she joined, a master of evil manipulation who is all sweetness, said she "looked like a Marcy May," and so it was. "Marlene" is the name that all the women in the cult use when they answer the phone. Martha escapes this sick "family" in upstate New York by calling her sister Lucy and her husband Ted. They try to help Martha, but in fact they embody the crass materialism for which the cult was an antidote of meaning and relationships. Lucy and Ted live in "the city" but weekend in a cavernous lake side cottage in rural Connecticut. Lucy complains that Martha is getting her house dirty, and offers her kale and ginseng tea. Martha struggles to distinguish between horrible dreams and painful memories, the real and the unreal. The entire film switches back and forth between the cult's "family" and her real family, and we can't but help notice parallels. Both are toxic, and the end of the film offers no closure.

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