That’s a lot of “M” names, isn’t it? (I keep calling the film “Martha etc.”) Strange title or not, it’s an indie that’s been the talk of the festival circuit, winning the Best Director prize at Sundance and being chosen for Cannes, Toronto and New York. Today it had its turn in Santa Barbara.
I didn’t love it. The story of a young woman who escapes from a cult to live with her sister and brother-in-law, it does a beautiful job of asking what is memory and what is a dream and what is reality. And the performances are uniformly great. But the ending (*** SPOILER ALERT ***) made me so angry. I get that it’s supposed to be ambiguous and let us decide what it all means. And, according to the director, who came today for a Q&A, the subject is too complex to be “buttoned up neatly” at the end. Give me a break. We all sat there through some difficult scenes (i.e. the flashbacks of the main character being abused while living with the cult) and we deserved a payoff in the last scene.
I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, judging by the mass exodus as the credits rolled. I stayed for the Q&A, because the producer and director made the trip up from LA, along with the amazing actor who played the cult leader, John Hawke (nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “Winter’s Bone”). I wanted to be polite. And there was a private reception afterward with yummy food, courtesy of the Simpson House Inn – no small lure.
At the reception I talked to Hawke and, unlike the slimy characters he plays, he couldn’t be sweeter or more appealing. Just a really nice guy. But even he acknowledged that the film belongs to newcomer Elizabeth Olsen. Yes, she’s the younger and more full-bodied sister of the skeletal Olsen Twins.
“Martha, etc” was her first film and yet she seemed totally comfortable in front of the camera. Her accomplishment was all the more impressive because she was shooting another movie at the same time this one was being shot and would commute back and forth between the two. The buzz is she’s the indie world’s new “It” girl, but we’ll see. Suffice it to say she’s very, very good in this one.