After watching him play the fan-favorite Steve Harrington for years in the pop-culture phenomenon that goes by the name of Stranger Things, you probably didn’t imagine you’d see Joe Keery as a simpleton with a heavy Southern accent. But Keir O’Donnell’s debut feature, titled Marmalade, clearly proves that Keery wants to break out of that image. His very recent role in the fifth season of Fargo can testify to that as well. And if his performance in Marmalade is anything to go by, then it can be said that Keery is very much on the right track.
I generally take pride in figuring out the twist beforehand in many films, but Marmalade has managed to beat me in that game. Neither me nor FBI agent Otis saw it coming, and that’s where the film wins. Initially appearing to be a run-of-the-mill heist thriller along the lines of Bonnie and Clyde, Marmalade eventually pulls off a surprisingly crazy final act. With its audacious choice of using shocking pink and orange colors and the self-mocking tone, Marmalade pretty much takes a dig at the typical films of the romantic thriller genre. It’s understandable if you’re a bit confused after watching the ending. The whole point of me writing this is to help you out with the puzzle, and hopefully I will succeed in that.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Movie?
Baron looks like someone who wouldn’t hurt a fly, which is why it’s surprising to see him being put in a maximum-security prison. There’s obviously an interesting story behind it, which we get to know from Baron’s narration to his cellmate Otis, an African-American man with a history of violent crime. Why is Baron so hellbent on telling his story to Otis? Because he needs to plan a prison break, and from their limited interaction, he has come to know that Otis is an expert in that. Otis is obviously not going to do it for free, so Baron offers him twenty-five thousand dollars, basically all the money that his girlfriend Marmalade is hiding in a secret place. Baron claims that all he cares for is getting out and reunited with the love of his life, and the money absolutely doesn’t matter to him.
Why Did Baron Go To Prison?
The story goes back to the humblest possible beginning, where we see Baron as this unbelievably innocent long-haired postal service employee who loses his job only because his mean boss hates his long hair, that he wouldn’t let go. That puts Baron in real trouble, as he now has no other means to pay for his ailing mother’s expensive medication. In such a hotchpotch situation of life, this pink-haired, manic-pixie dream girl suddenly comes into Baron’s life, almost appearing out of thin air. Baron is smitten by Marmalade, and the attraction turns out to be mutual, because who wouldn’t fall for such a sweetheart like him? Not much is known about Marmalade, other than the fact that she mostly grew up in foster homes, where she most likely got abused by terrible men pretending to be dads.
Marmalade and Baron’s romance is hot and heavy, but neither of them possesses a fortune, and you can’t survive this world without the dough, especially when there’s a pressing matter like Baron’s mom’s medication on the line. So Marmalade comes up with the only possible solution, which is casually robbing a bank, which would solve all their problems in life. Baron is obviously not too fond of the idea, but he eventually gives in to it because there’s really no other way. They come up with a “foolproof” plan involving necessary stakeouts, buying a menacing-looking three-headed mask, finding a safehouse, and most importantly, finding a bank which is pretty easy to rob. But just before the all-important job actually happens, Eda suddenly dies. With her dead, Baron doesn’t see any point in robbing the bank anymore. But Marmalade convinces him that they still need the money in order to get their happily ever after in this capitalist world. So the lovers go ahead with the robbery, and as you can expect, it had to go south; otherwise, how would Baron end up in prison anyway? But they did manage to take the money and make a promise to each other to meet at the cabin if they managed to survive. And that’s why, for Baron, the prison escape becomes an absolute necessity.
Who Is Otis Really, And What Does He Want?
The first real twist of Marmalade comes in the second act, when it is revealed that Otis is an FBI agent disguised as a prisoner, only to get information from Baron. He is actually after Marmalade, who’s this serial bank robber. Baron getting caught has only given him an opportunity to set a trap where he would help Baron get out, and when he’ll see Marmalade, Otis will be there to catch her red-handed. His unconventional approach is criticized by a fellow policeman, but that clearly doesn’t seem to bother him. It gets pretty clear that, despite his mission, he actually likes Baron and feels for him. In fact, Otis even tries to ask Baron whether he has considered the possibility of Marmalade was playing him. However, Baron wouldn’t hear a word against Marmalade, and that’s fine by Otis. So the plan goes really smoothly, as Otis has no trouble getting Baron out—other than a prison guard harassing him in the end, not knowing who he really is.
Does Marmalade Get Away?
I know you’ve been waiting for this segment the longest. Because this is where everything goes to hell in a handbasket. Otis’ plan of using Baron as bait in order to get Marmalade made loads of sense, and he started following Baron, right after the former postman got out. But instead of going to Marmalade first, Baron visits his mother’s grave and leaves something. Since Baron already told Otis how special his mother was to him and the two even discussed Otis’ strained relationship with his mother, Otis was not surprised. Baron’s next stop is the ice cream parlor, which also doesn’t surprise Otis, as he knew how special that place was to Baron as he frequently used to visit it with Marmalade.
Once Baron was out of the ice cream parlor, Otis was certain that he’d definitely visit Marmalade in the cabin. And then comes the first shock for him, as well as for us. Otis realizes that the person who’s driving the car is not Baron but a random ice cream parlor employee. Baron clearly switched places with this guy. Otis gets further confirmation when he rushes back to Eda’s grave and finds a jar of marmalade there, which Baron has left, most certainly to tease Otis.
As it turns out, it was Baron all along, after all! Now we get another flashback, where we see Baron looking at newspaper cuttings regarding the bank robberies and the person who’s investigating them—FBI agent Otis. Marmalade made us believe that Otis was using Baron, but we finally realized it was the other way around. But then what about the story he told Otis? Well, that’s nothing but something he carefully made up in order to trick Otis into believing him. The guy is anything but innocent, and his special love for the long hair that once got him fired was also fake, as we now see him chopping it off. That is followed by Baron disguising himself as a middle-aged woman and getting away right under the nose of unsuspecting policemen.
But he’s not exactly a bad man, per se. Marmalade clarifies that the reason behind all this was indeed getting the medicine for Eda, who’s clearly not dead yet. And it doesn’t just end there. Thanks to the phone calls he made from the prison, Otis finds an address, and upon visiting, he realizes that it’s the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug that Eda needed. The company being called Baron Pharmaceutical only makes the whole thing more diabolical. When Otis and company reach the location, they find the man who runs the company is already waiting for them. It was his money that Baron robbed, pretending to be the pink-haired femme fatale after all. The man is no saint either; in fact, he is actually notorious for torturing his underage foster kids. It doesn’t take much effort for Otis to figure out that Baron was one of the foster kids, and he was one of those who got abused as a child. Considering all that, you can’t help but root for the fugitive.
During Marmalade‘s ending, the titular character does get away, because she doesn’t even exist in the first place. The film also clarifies its title by revealing that Baron’s mother’s name happens to be EDA LAMRAM. Try to spell it backwards, and there you go! Baron’s name is also not Baron, and the unnamed leading man does one final wholesome thing to win our hearts: leave a bus ticket for Otis, which would take him to his mother, and hopefully give an opportunity to sort things out. Because it’s all about loving your mother, after all!