ANDREW COLLINS: FILM OF THE DAY Martha Marcy May Marlene★★★★ Premiere 10.40pm-12.40am Film4
The title of Sean Durkin’s disturbing but well-told indie drama is a reference to the three names used by Elizabeth Olsen’s abused escapee from a cult in the Catskill Mountains. Told in flashbacks, this exploration of the power of a charismatic leader over damaged souls contains a mesmerising performance from John Hawkes as guitar-strumming guru Patrick, who rechristens teen runaway Martha “Marcy May”, his first act of control. At his secluded, self-sufficient farm commune, she joins other women in a sort of harem where sex and violence lurk beneath the bucolic surface. (All the women use “Marlene” on the phone to conceal their identities.) Strange, languid and occasionally terrifying, the film won numerous festival awards, but don’t expect easy resolutions.
Some subjects are so difficult or taboo to tackle on screen that they’re going to put people off even before they’ve seen the trailer. That’s likely to be the case with this film, which sees a married couple’s relationship falling apart following the loss of their young son in a road accident. However, top-drawer performances from Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart make this a rewarding and even uplifting experience, thanks to a script that finds light amid the dark.
It may not be as fast and furious as the film franchise that made his name, but this thriller starring the late Paul Walker still makes for an enjoyable ride. Using a similar conceit to this year’s Locke, the action unfolds from within the confines of a car, with Walker finding himself behind the wheel of a rental vehicle that clearly hasn’t been checked over properly – as there’s another occupant still on board.
Before Tom Hanks went all serious and Oscar-winning on us, he was best known for his comedy films like Turner & Hooch, Splash and this period romp. He’s great fun as a boozy former sports pro who coaches a female team to satisfy America’s demand for baseball while its sons are away frighting in the Second World War. Among the ladies lining up for the Rockford Peaches are Geena Davis and Madonna, who also contributes the film’s theme song, This Used to Be My Playground.
This comedy offered the careers of Steve Carell and Judd Apatow a huge boost. Carell went from a scene-stealer to a star playing the middle-aged man trying to lose his cherry, and he collaborated on the script with Apatow, here making his directing debut. After this, the hits just kept on coming for both funnymen.
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