Love Movie


Keir O’Donnell’s delightful feature debut “Marmalade” is the kind of comedy that zigs when you expect it to zag, like a carnival ride that catches you by surprise. It’s a story of love and crime, of betrayals and chases, and yet it feels fresh and exciting once the first unexpected dip throws you off-course. This is not your typical “bank robbery gone wrong” kind of movie, nor does it follow the familiar beats of a Bonnie and Clyde-style “lovers on the lam” story. “Marmalade” is a strange mix of its own, launching the rom com criminal premise to thrilling heights. 

Baron (Joe Keery) is a long-haired, lovestruck young man who lands in prison after robbing a bank. As he tells his fellow inmate, Otis (Aldis Hodge), he bumbled into the bank robbing business to impress his girl, a manic pixie dream robber named Marmalade (Camila Morrone), who despite her pink tresses and dresses, knew her way around a gun and seemed quite familiar with sticking up banks. She burst into his life at a low point: a dying mom, fired from his postal service job, stuck in a town where there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go. With her outrageous personality and verve, it looked like these two lovers could do anything they wanted—until the cops showed up. 

That is just the first third of the movie, and to avoid spoiling any of the other thrills, I won’t go into the rest. However, my thoughts during that first segment were less than impressed and closer to bracing myself for a clunky “boy meets bad girl, boy does crime” yarn. At first, Baron is our aw-shucks narrator, Otis feels like he’s playing too tough to be serious or this inquisitive, and Marmalade, well, she’s just a loose cannon, a whirl of pink and chaos, and while entertaining, they do act as one-note as they sound. Thankfully, the gears shift, and the movie doesn’t stop surprising until the credits roll.  

After a lengthy resume as an actor, O’Donnell switched gears for “Marmalade,” jumping behind the camera as both writer and director. With its well-executed comedic beats and misdirections, “Marmalade” feels like the film of a much more experienced director. It’s stylish yet funny, dark at moments, then gleefully anarchic. Perhaps because of that acting background, O’Donell knew just how to hide elements of the story into the actors’ performances, a feat he also works into the narrative when hiding clues throughout the story pointing to the still at-large suspect, Marmalade. Along with O’Donnell, editor Stewart Reeves revs up the story for its zany conclusion, quickening the pace as the pursuit heats up, and cinematographer Polly Morgan makes gorgeous imagery out of the mundane and pulls off quirky dream sequences with equal panache. 

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