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“Martha Marcy May Marlene”—(Family Matters.)

(Another challenge for theater owners:  try to cram this title on your marquee.)

“MMMM” is a good independent film about a young woman who leaves her dysfunctional natural family to live with a “family” led by a Manson type.

Martha etc. is played by Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley.  She has emotional problems, but keeps the audience guessing as to how damaged she really is.  We cannot always determine which parts of her psyche come from her real family or the “family” family.

John Hawkes, who got an Oscar nomination for last year’s “Winter Bone,” should be in the running to get one for his work in “MMMM.”  He is the slick-talking charmer who makes Olsen feel appreciated.  He gives her emotional support, tells her she is “a teacher and a leader” and even sings a special song for her.

The movie begins with her leaving the “family” to stay with her estranged sister and the sister’s new husband.  Sister is Sarah Paulson.  Brother-in-law is Hugh Dancy.  (Martha’s mother is dead and her father is absent.)

During her visit with her sister and brother-in-law, she and the movie keep flashing back to her time with the “family.”  She reverts to certain odd behaviors, like walking in and lying down on her sister’s bed while the sis and brother-in-law are making love.

Some of the flashbacks display a brutal, violent existence.  Other parts of her “family” life show emotional needs being met—needs that were not satisfied by her “real” family.

You may see parts of someone you know (or have known) in Martha.  The empty hole in her soul that was filled by the “family” is one that her sister and brother-in-law cannot fill.  Seeing the character’s vulnerability, you may be able to understand how a person could be lured into this “family.”

Will she go back to the “family?”  Will she accept her sister’s offer to seek professional help?  I’ll never tell.  Go see “MMMM” and appreciate these two solid performances by Olsen and Hawkes.

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