Tag Archives: john hawkes

Martha Marcy May Marlene – Review

10 Jul

When a film maker has the ability to create a movie that infiltrates your mind, even when you think that all is right with the world, you know that you are truly watching something special by a very talented artist. Martha Marcy May Marlene is a vicious spectacle of subtlety and paranoia that will remain buried in your mind long after the credits have stopped rolling.

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Martha’s (Elizabeth Olsen) life all of a sudden doesn’t seem like her own anymore. For the past two years of her life she has been staying with a mysterious cult, led by Patrick (John Hawkes), in the Catskill Mountains of New York. One morning she decides to leave and go stay with her sister (Sarah Paulson) and her brother in law (Hugh Dancy). Automatically, Martha’s behavior appears out of the ordinary to her family with an ever growing paranoia as the backbone of her whole mental discomfort. As the days go on, and more time is spent contemplating the past two years, Martha finds herself not knowing what is real and what is just her imagination.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is one of the most pure psychological dramas/thrillers that I have ever seen. There are plenty of great psychological films that go way over the top with how the present the mental collapse of its characters (Dragonfly) and sometimes it really works well (Antichrist). The look into Martha’s head is much more subtle. As a viewer, I didn’t even know that there were times that my head was being messed with until I really thought about it. Then, I had to go back and re-evaluate major parts of the movie because more and more puzzle pieces were falling into place, even after the movie ended.

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Part of what makes this movie work so well is the pacing and how the shots and scenes are pieced together. Martha’s time with the cult is all seen in flashbacks and the rest of the movie is Marta trying to adjust to family life. These parallel story lines are triggered by the other with something happening in the present that initiates the jump to the past events. This mirrors Martha’s fragile state of mind and shows her regression and obsession with the past, along with her inability to escape what has happened. In one particular transition, the two story lines appear to converge without me even noticing. It’s brilliant film making that really makes Martha Marcy May Marlene work.

Finally, something has to be said about the performances. I first saw John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone, which certainly isn’t a movie that I need to see again, but I do recognize that it’s objectively a good movie and the performances are especially something to admire, Hawke’s being one of them. He has this quiet and misleading attitude that hides his maliciousness, which really only comes out in a few scenes. But all my respect has to go to newcomer Elizabeth Olsen for not only taking on, but owning such a challenging role. Martha is one of the most complex characters I have seen on film, and Olsen completely sells it. I’d definitely like to see her in more serious roles in the future.

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Martha Marcy May Marlene, to me, is the perfect example of a psychological thriller. It’s subtle, yet jarring. The level of discomfort that I felt while watching this was enormous, and when the movie was over, I was so glad to find myself in my living room and no longer in this woman’s mind. For fans of the genre, this is a must see. It’s a slow burn that will leave you speechless.

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Roadracers – Review

5 Mar

I don’t think that I’ve talked about Robert Rodriguez on this blog yet, which is strange because he is one of the biggest inspirations to my style of writing and, hopefully, directing. He enjoys all things over the top, as you can see in his films such as DesperadoPlanet Terror, and Machete. Before all of this insanity was El Mariachi, the little indie film that put him on the map. What I’m sure many people don’t know about was a little TV movie he made for Showtime, Roadracers, which was made right before Desperado.

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Dude (David Arquette) is a 1950s greaser who spends his days cruising through town with his girlfriend Donna (Salma Hayek), getting into fights with his rival Teddy (Jason Wiles), and making trouble for the local sheriff (William Sadler). His entire life has been spent this way: moving fast but going nowhere. Now that Dude is beginning to grow up, he’s beginning to realize that he needs to get his act together and possibly follow up on a very possible music career, or get left in the dust and remain in the town. The pulling between the two factors pull Dude harder than he can handle, leading to a violent climax that will decide where Dude’s life will take him.

The first thing I noticed about this movie was the use of the character name “Dude.” Does that ring a bell for anyone? The Big Lebowski anyone? Funny thing is that Roadracers came first. I think that’s pretty interesting since The Dude from Lebowski is thought of as such a goofy and original character name. I mean no disrespect to the Coen Brothers, I enjoy their work and consider them two heroes of mine, but Rodriguez was first! This isn’t what I want to talk about though. After El Mariachi, Rodriguez made this film for Showtime which was doing a series of made for TV movies called Rebel Highway, that were homages to 1950s B-movies. The series featured big name directors like William Friedkin, but Rodriguez was, at the time, unknown.

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Like Quentin Tarantino, Rodriguez has made his career off of making films that hearken back to the days of video stores and all of the strange genres that lurk in their darkest corners. In that respect, Rodriguez is the perfect choice to be a part of this series. Strangely enough, this was before he made his stylistic mark. It seems like he was born for this style of film making. Still, this was before he really found his niche, and it shows. The plot begins to jumble and ramble in the second act leaving me thinking that it could’ve have realistically been an hour long or maybe a little over. And hour and a half felt like a stretch.

I will say that the movie was better than I expected, but I wasn’t really expecting much. I laughed a lot in the beginning and I really liked how cheesy all of the ’50s style is played. It’s all over the top and romanticized while being satirized at the same time. Let’s compare it to one of my favorite films, Rebel Without a Cause. James Dean plays a character who is also beginning to grow up and learn that he needs to start making adult decisions without relying on adults. This is played very seriously, and almost tragically. Dude in Roadracers also needs to make these decisions, but they are played so over the top and comedically. Rebel Without a Cause  and Roadracers both critique the society of the time and the fact that cliques and classes are so separated, it made life for these young people difficult.

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Roadracers is an alright attempt by Rodriguez, although it is nowhere near as great as his next film, Desperado. By that point, he’s found his style and locked onto his ability and made a great film. This one, however, is pretty sloppy and got pretty boring by the midway point. It’s pretty silly, made me laugh, and the ending is abrupt, yet awesome. It still could’ve been a lot shorter and the narrative much cleaner. Unless you’re really a die hard fan of Rodriguez, skip this one. If you’re a huge fan and interested in all of his work, lower your standards and give it a quick watch. It’s very mediocre.