Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene
seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

I still like the Kew Gardens. Not only is it a nice, cozy place to see art-house movies, it's close to me and I can pay less for a movie there than if I were to go into Manhattan. That hasn't changed. But yesterday they screwed up.

I went to a late afternoon showing of Martha Marcy May Marlene. There were maybe about six or seven other people in the small theater, including three little old ladies who seemed very interested in the film from what I could tell. Everything was going well for about the first hour or so. It was an intriguing story, well-shot, with a great performance from the young Elizabeth Olson at its heart, and I think it's safe to say that most of us in the room were absorbed by it. (The guy behind me sounded like he might've dozed off at one point.)

Then the projector stopped.

It was so sudden and unexpected that at first I just sat there, stunned. The movie stopped, the lights went up and music started playing, just like that. There was a confused buzz through the room, then a couple of people went outside to find a staff member. I looked up at the window to the projection room. I couldn't tell what had happened, so I called up there, "Hey! What happened to the movie?" No response. "Hello?" Still nothing. Apparently there wasn't anyone there. I went out into the hall as well, only to find that a staffer was notified, and he insisted that they would fix the projector. Disgruntled, I went back to my seat, not knowing how long this would take.

This was the first time this had happened to me at the Kew Gardens, but not the first time it's ever happened to me. If I recall correctly, the last time it happened was at the Village East in the city, when I saw an indie film called Smoke Signals. The projector stopped early in the film then, and there were a lot more people. I remember this because there was this great big Native American dude in the audience, bigger than me, with a frown on his face. (Smoke Signals was a comedy with a Native cast.) I imagine if you go to enough movies, this is bound to happen sooner or later. As long as the problem is fixable, it shouldn't be more than a minor inconvenience, and here at the Kew Gardens, that was the case. The projector was fixed in about five minutes or so and the movie continued...

...and then it stopped again. What the hell? At least the repair time was quicker, but still, how can you have the projector give out on you twice in one film? Now I was getting paranoid, and I watched the film with increasing trepidation, fearful of a third stoppage and ready to complain loudly to somebody if that happened. Fortunately, it didn't, and we made it through the rest of the film uninterrupted.

And like I said, it was an excellent film. I never watched Full House, so I never gave a crap about Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, though I do remember working at the Avenue A video store when Mary-Kate (I think?) went into rehab for something or other. My point is that Elizabeth Olsen may be their younger sister, but that carries no weight with me. The entire movie is on her back; indeed, the camera lingers on her a lot, and she absolutely nails a great performance.

At first I thought Martha might've taken place in the past, since you don't see communes much anymore. They were more a thing of the 60s and 70s, if I understand my history right. Then I thought it might've been some kind of religious order, like the one in Higher Ground, which also takes place in an isolated rural area. It's not, although John Hawkes' character seems to have some sort of guidelines that make it seem like an order, not unlike Scientology, perhaps. Clearly Martha is fully indoctrinated into this life and found it hard to shake even after she fled from it, which made me think of some of the stories I've read about those who leave the Scientologists.

After the movie ended, I left right behind the three little old ladies, who were animatedly discussing the abrupt ending. One of them turned to me for my opinion. I shared mine, which, on further inspection, now seems wrong, though they seemed to think it was as valid as anything they could come up with. I can only imagine how different Martha is from most films they've seen in their lifetimes, and yet they took to it well. They kept discussing the plot while we waited for the projector to be fixed, trying to get it straight in their minds, and the nudity and bizarre sex scenes didn't seem to bother them. I dunno, maybe I stereotype too much about old people, thinking they won't "get" a movie as off the beaten path as this, but I just thought it was cool that they were able to appreciate Martha on its own merits.


  1. Interesting post Rich. I often contain some of the same stereotypes you do about older folk at the cinema - mainly because, well, it's true that those older continuously reject films that are obscure or are too racy.

    Considering I haven't seen MMMM (though I plan to sometime this week) I can't say that it's unlike something I've ever seen. But going by your word... I'm in for something - if anything - that's different.

  2. It's a stereotype that always comes up around Oscar time - whether or not a certain movie might be too much for the stodgy, uptight Academy to handle. DRAGON TATTOO is the perfect example. It's never a good idea to generalize, I admit, but they did go with the crowd-friendly KING'S SPEECH last year over the more daring SOCIAL NETWORK, so who knows for sure which way they'll jump?


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