06/10/2011

LFF: Martha Marcy May Marlene & Like Crazy


Martha Marcy May Marlene

When it's not inspiring impossible drinking games (try saying the title four times after a few shots), Martha Marcy May Marlene is getting a considerable amount of festival hype and slightly premature but totally valid Oscar buzz. Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) has just escaped from the clutches of dangerous cult prettied up as a loving family and is trying to get back to normal living with her sister and her husband in one of those  impossibly huge and modern houses you see on Grand Designs but never think actually exists. From the opening scenes M4 (as I'm choosing to call it) is drenched in atmosphere and an uncomfortable feeling associated with impending doom.

It deftly cuts back and forth between the present and her time with the group and demonstrates why she's acting like such a weirdo. Much like in last year's Winter's Bone, John Hawkes is quietly terrifying as the leader and is almost certain for another Oscar nod but this film really belongs to Olsen. The beginning of her career was understandably met with cynicism since she's the younger sister of child stars/actresses/fashion designers/daylight robbers Mary-Kate and Ashley but Lizzie (as I'm choosing to call her) may be the real deal. Apart from her ambiguous and genuinely affecting lead performance, she's also up for a bit of nudity (unlike her sisters) which according to certain men's magazines makes her a much better person.


So yeah, it's good.

Like Crazy


The beginning of Sundance-favourite Like Crazy was worryingly headed towards "QUIRKY TEENS HAVE A LOVE OF MUSIC USUALLY PREFERRED BY OLDER PEOPLE AND BEGIN A QUIRKY ROMANCE" territory last attempted by the awful Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist but thankfully, it becomes something different. British student falls for American teen while studying in LA and just as they're starting to enjoy Go-Kart races, walks on the beach and montages of their various sleeping positions (they're too quirky to drink and have awkward, uncomfortable and horribly disappointing teenage sex), her visa runs out and she decides to ignore it. Obviously she learns the hard way that you don't fuck with a country that checks afros for WMDs and she's denied access to the land of the free and Anton Yelchin's distractingly 90s goatee.

Bringing back memories of the decidedly average but scarily watchable TV drama NY-LON, they attempt to continue their relationship in the vain hope that some records of their relationship and a rushed marriage will grant her the visa she so desperately wants. Thing is, this part isn't that interesting, nor the ridiculously successful business he set up ten minutes after studying, or her desire to be a writer; it's the subtle moments of realism and relatable emotional honesty that keeps it going. They both start relationships on their side of the pond and somehow, I felt a yearning for them to be together while simultaneously feeling sympathy for their respective pieces being dragged through this drawn out mess. The moment he accidentally calls his GF his wife's name, when her boyfriend removes the chair her husband made for her soon after they met, the restrained public clash and the not-so-restrained row in her kitchen. It sidesteps the quirky bullshit and actually hints at heart-wrenching drama but writer-director Drake Doremus' inability to really go for it and add a Blue Valentine-like touch stops it from going from 'OK' to 'must-see brilliant'. I really enjoyed it though, and yes, a few drops of lacrimation may have been secreted.