Joe Keery’s Performance In Marmalade Is Phenomenal, But I Can’t Stop Thinking About Its Big Plot Twist

Film News

Major spoilers ahead for Marmalade. 

Joe Keery might be in the Stranger Things Season 5 trenches right now, reprising his role as beloved Steve Harrington for the final time, but the actor/singer has a lot of other projects in the works too. Though his appearance in Season 5 of Fargo has come to an end, fans can now obsess over his role of Baron in the romantic heist Marmalade. 

The movie, which is written and directed by Keir O’Donnell, follows Baron (Keery), a sweet small-town boy who finds himself incarcerated after the love of his life, Marmalade (Camila Morrone) talks him into robbing a bank. He quickly befriends his cellmate Otis (Aldis Hodge) and convinces him to help him escape so he can reunite with Marmalade. In return, Barron promises Otis $250,000 for his troubles. Reluctant at first, Otis agrees and Baron spends the rest of the day telling him about how he ended up here in the first place. 

On the surface, it seems like a tried and true heist gone wrong movie with a hint of romance peppered into it. At least, that’s what I was expecting when I decided to digitally rent the movie. However, Marmalade isn’t at all what it seems. Keery, Morrone, and Hodge all put on a masterful performance, but it’s the movie’s major plot twists that have me still thinking about it days after watching. 

Aldis Hodge as Otis in Marmalade

(Image credit: Signature Films)

The First Plot Twist Was Surprising, But Not All That Shocking 

I may not be well-versed in heist movies, but it’s pretty normal to expect some kind of plot twist. For Marmalade the first twists come about an hour into the movie. During mealtime, Baron finds himself in a scuffle with another prisoner forcing Otis to intervene. However, when Otis gets hauled away by security, he’s not thrown back into his cell but rather is thrust into an office swarming with FBI agents. 

It turns out that Otis isn’t a prisoner, but an undercover FBI agent who has been tracking Marmalade and her string of bank robberies for some time now. The goal is to use Baron to get to her and put an end to her crime spree. 

I was definitely surprised at the sudden switch, but it definitely made sense. Why else would Otis encourage Baron to tell him how he ended up in jail instead of just enacting a plan to break him out right away? It was a stalling and misdirection tactic, that worked on me since I did not see the plot twist coming. 

Camila Moorone and Joe Keery in Marmalade

(Image credit: Signature Films)

The Second Plot Twist Completely Blew My Mind

With the Otis reveal out of the way, I thought I was safe from any other plot twists. Never have I been so wrong in my life! 

The last twenty to thirty minutes of Marmalade is where the story really starts to shine. Otis manages to get Baron out of jail, but his plan to stay with him backfires leaving the recent convict on his own. Thankfully, Otis and his team are fast and begin trailing him in the hopes of finally nabbing Marmalade. 

While it seems that Baron is leading them straight to her, all hope is lost when Baron manages to swap cars with a food service employee and get Otis off his trail. We then follow Baron back to the cabin where everything started and learn that he hid the money there along with several newspaper clippings of FBI Agent Otis. Turns out, he’s known Otis’s real identity this whole time! 

As if that’s not mind-blowing enough, it quickly becomes clear that Baron is the one behind the string of bank robberies, not Marmalade. In fact, Marmalade doesn’t even exist. She’s a figment of Baron’s imagination that he projected his own life trauma onto. 

I was so surprised by the twist of events, that I had to pause the movie to wrap my head around the fact that Baron was the mastermind in the entire operation. Once I came to terms with it, I was blown away at how effectively the writing and Keery’s performance threw me off Baron’s trail. I never would have expected him to be so conniving, but it all made sense. It’s definitely one of the best plot twists in a movie — at least in my opinion. 

After all, he wasn’t robbing banks for himself, he was doing it to afford his mother’s life-saving medication and help other patients suffering from the same condition. He’s a real-life Robin Hood waging war against the pharmaceutical industry (and his abusive foster father who owned the medication company). 

Extreme close up of Joe Keery in Marmalade

(Image credit: Signature Films)

The Entire Movie Works Because Of Keery’s Phenomenal Performance 

It’s no surprise that Keery has undeniable range when it comes to acting. He’s made a name for himself playing Steve Harrington, who famously went from a jerk antagonist to one of the best characters in Stranger Things. Beyond that he’s played a loveable nerd in Free Guy, a rideshare driver obsessed with going viral in Spree, and most recently showed off his talents playing Gator, the morally gray son of Sheriff Tillman (Jon Hamm) who goes on a wild journey in Season 5 of Fargo

The role of Baron in Marmalade can best be described as a combination of all the best elements of Keery’s former roles. He’s a sweetheart with a penchant for caretaking (like Steve Harrington), he’s easily swayed by the people he loves in his life and will risk it all if the moment feels right (like Gator), and though he’s not a rideshare driver or interested in getting internet famous like his character in Spree, Baron is obsessed with finding a way to pay for his mother’s medication. 

Keery absolutely knocks it out of the park. I was slightly worried that the wig and Southern accent were going to be distracting, but it all fades into the background as Baron begins telling the story about how he landed himself in jail. And when the twist is revealed and Baron sheds the naive, small-town boy stereotypes to become an unlikely morally gray hero, well the actor’s range truly shines. 

While the Stranger Things actor might be the main character here, he has some help along the way. Morrone and Hodge both serve as excellent scene partners, pushing the plot along while also helping Keery explore the character of Baron. Someone needs to give the casting director a raise because this movie would not have been as good as it is without this trio. 

Marmalade may not have been a highly anticipated 2024 movie release, but it clearly should have been. At the very least, everyone should watch it at least once. Marmalade is playing in select theaters not and is also available to rent or purchase on VOD sites like Apple TV and Prime Video. 

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