Sundance review: "Martha Marcy May Marlene"
Published: January 21, 2011 05:44PM
Updated: January 21, 2011 05:44PM
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Martha (Elizabeth Olsen, left) returns to her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) after a mysterious absence in the drama "Martha Marcy May Marlene." Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

"Martha Marcy May Marlene"
U.S. Dramatic competition
***

Elizabeth Olsen won't be known just as Mary-Kate and Ashley's little sister anymore. Olsen gives a breakout performance in this unsettling drama, as Martha, a troubled young woman who is quickly -- and under at first uncertain circumstances -- with her suburbanite sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy). What Lucy and Ted don't know, and what writer-director Sean Durkin slowly unfolds, is how Martha has just escaped from a Manson-like cult whose leader (John Hawkes) uses rape and manipulation to keep his followers under his control. Durkin ratchets up the tension as Martha's outbursts confound Lucy and Ted, but he can't find a place for that tension to go in the finale.

"Martha Marcy May Marlene" screens again at: Saturday, Jan. 22, at 9:30 p.m. at the Rose Wagner Center, Salt Lake City; Monday, Jan. 24, at 8:30 p.m. at the Library Center Theatre, Park City; Tuesday, Jan. 25, at 9 p.m. at the Sundance resort; Wednesday, Jan. 26, at 11:30 a.m. at the Library Center Theatre, Park City; and Friday, Jan. 28, at midnight at the Yarrow Hotel Theatre, Park City.

- Sean P. Means