Elizabeth Olsen impresses in dark first role as a member of a cult

Elizabeth Olsen is not your average college student. At the age of 22, she juggles a hectic life style, balancing filming movies and attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

This year has been a whirlwind of new experiences for the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen of “Full House” fame. Her first leading role has been a greater success than she thought possible.

Olsen’s movie debut, in the psychological thriller “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” sees Olsen play a young woman who runs away from life in a cult. As she struggles to adjust to life in the real world with her family, she is haunted by her past. As the movie switches between dream and reality, Olsen’s character Martha finds herself falling deeper and deeper into paranoia.

The movie premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in January where it won the U.S. Directing Award for Best Drama and was also screened this year at the Cannes Film Festival.

Director Sean Durkin knew exactly what he wanted going into this movie, providing the back story for each character.

“Sean presents himself as an open book,” Olsen said. “He is specific in what he wants, but he isn’t a micromanager.”

In order to prepare for her role, Olsen said she did not do anything specifically for inspiration. However, watching Kate Winslet in “Holy Smoke!,” another film about a woman who joins a cult, gave Olsen the confidence she needed to delve into the more daunting scenes of the film.

The newcomer described her filming experience as being very welcoming and said that seasoned actor John Hawkes was extremely funny and caring on set. No tricks were played, and the entire cast went out of their way to make sure she was comfortable.

While she may be a novice to the big screen, Olsen is far from untrained. As a student of NYU and the Atlantic Theater Company, she learned analytical and action driven techniques, which she said significantly helped her in this film. Because the script is so riddled and she spent most of the time alone on screen, she said she relied on her education to make her scenes a success.

The emerging actress doesn’t need to rely on her sisters’ fame. Olsen already has five more movies set to release by the end of 2012. Nevertheless, she is extremely fond of her movie debut.

“I think experiencing this film is an experience that people don’t get watching any other movie,” Olsen said. “I think it’s a really fun ride. When I was reading the script, I was so excited to turn the next page and figure out the next puzzle piece.

“I believe everyone should see this movie more than once because it is so smart,” she continued. “It is filled with little riddles and nuances that the audience will pick up on the more and more they see it.”

“Martha Marcy May Marlene” will be released at select theaters on Friday, Oct. 22, and is slated to open everywhere on Dec. 22.

Kristyn Lyncheski can be reached at kristyn.lyncheski@student.shu.edu.

Follow Kristyn on Twitter @klyncheski

Author: Staff Writer

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