10 Best Jesse Plemons Films You Must Watch
Jesse Plemmons’ star has risen upwards ever since he appeared in PTA’s ‘The Master’. Although a television star before the film, the performance firmly established his acting credentials. Most of Plemmons’ roles are oddball characters that have some or the other kind of perversity purists just love. He brings a peculiar calmness and meditative energy to the parts he plays. While deviating from the equilibrium is not his signature, Plemmons packs a powerful punch when required. He is now getting the recognition he deserves, most notably an Academy nomination for his force of nature turn in ‘The Power of the Dog‘.
On his birthday, we decided to bring you a list of some of his best works over the years. This list of the best Jesse Plemmons films is curated keeping in mind the need to be diverse but not compromise on quality. Happy reading!
10. Windfall (2022)
This single setting slow burn is more about existentialism and identity crisis than the robbery. It is nervy, sure, but the tension is focused on Lilly Collins’ universal character. The constricted setting and minimal cast ensure that generally what brews and settles just beneath our skins wearily creeks out. The dialogue lacks a bit, thereby weakening the exposition. But the new innovation in a highly ubiquitous genre is refreshing.
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Jesse Plemons goes against his acting norm and takes on a role that requires him to be condescending, narcissistic, and toxic, all at the same time. He plays the typical alpha male who unknowingly, and most probably, unwillingly, crosses the line. The acting trait that makes his tech billionaire believable is genuineness and the shades of gray that align the fiction of the film with the reality of the world.
9. Antlers (2022)
‘Antlers’ was a fascinating small-town demon horror film, the occurrence of which is becoming far too frequent. The overused trope of the hellish creature did not have the greatest of impacts but enough to keep you interested. Jesse Plemons, and the relatively unknown cast, worked well within their limitations. The compromise between the atmosphere and the development of the story does not come off as a surprise. The increasing tendency to augment the former and make it a centerpiece in storytelling is beginning to proliferate dangerously. The bet pays off when the characters are used dynamically in that setting, and that is where ‘Antlers’ succeeds.
The visual appeal of the feature is boosted by some great camerawork and the eye-catching terrain. It follows a familiar narrative tone found in other films of the genre. Though the effort is sincere, the development of a compelling core is complicated by inconsistencies. The experiment works with Plemmons and Keri Russell as the leading pair. Both use their experience well to make their work authentic and in sync with the theme of the film.
8. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)
If ‘Breaking Bad’ couldn’t make it to the list, the spin-off movie definitely will. Despite not being the best of follow-ups, the television film provides much-needed closure for die-hard fans. Finally putting to rest this saga seemed a believable choice after watching it. The show ended on a hopeful note when Jesse is able to break free and Walter dies a somewhat satisfied man. The movie tracks Jesse’s frantic search for redemption when he escaped Todd’s captivity. Todd (Jesse Plemmons), is shown to be the menacing cold-blooded killer, the idea of which eluded the show for quite some time. Like most criminals in movies and television, Plemmons played Todd in the vein of a predator passing off as just another person.
The peculiarity of his demeanor became an interesting enigma for his subplot. This time around, Plemmons had enough time to push through and solidify Todd’s status as an indispensable part of the ‘Breaking Bad universe.
7. The Program (2015)
Sports films about real-life controversies or figures are hard to get right. Finding the right mix of facts and personal requires a certain skill set. There is a thin line between blowing it out of proportion and underwhelming audiences with mediocrity. ‘The Program’ just about manages to find a palatable rhythm, although documentaries on Armstrong are much superior for interested parties. The legendary cyclist’s chequered past and competitive spirit are brought out wonderfully in Ben Foster’s lead performance under Stephen Frears’ direction. The complex roadmap of his professional journey is more or less simplified by Frears, whose bold creative choices save ‘The Program’ from succumbing to the quicksand of cinema tradition.
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Jesse Plemons and the ensemble are a solid supporting act to Foster. The former plays Floyd Landis, the American cyclist who fared a similar fate. His encapsulation of Landis’ insecurities, fears, and deep jealousy, unfortunately, foreshadows what could have been a story of his prodigal talents. The once hailed maverick of the mountains suffers a damning setback, leaving Plemmons to excel with his fantastic range.
6. The Master (2012)
Paul Thomas Anderson once again returned empty-handed from an Academy Awards ceremony. This is not the first, and certainly, heartbreakingly, not the last. Outside of that room, though, PTA is a winner by all means. The American filmmaker is arguably the most watchable of his generation. The diversity, perversity, and ecstasy of his body of work for purists is second to none. ‘The Master’ ranks as one of his best films and also as the best ensemble movie of the last decade.
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PTA travels into the depths of the myth of Scientology and its grinding rise among the American elites vis-a-vis a troubled war veteran looking for direction in life. The central theme of having one master that we all serve comes with oddball characters, each hiding a true human emotion. Plemmons fits in the scheme as Val Dodd, an inadequate but obedient son who finds comfort in the shadow of his great father. His presence is limited, like his other co-stars but the moments he has on-screen are well worth the watch.
5. Game Night (2018)
‘Game Night’ is a hugely underrated comedy thriller. Within the genre, I cannot think of much better contenders in the last few years. Plemmons’ Gary is arguably his sweetest character on the list. He is also the most “American” in characterization and stereotypes, To start off, he is divorced. He tries his best to be a good neighbor but only can annoy his street mates. And lastly, he feels buried under the excruciating pain of loneliness but still soldiers on to make us laugh. Gary is the guy you want in your friends’ circle but without too much socializing. His straight-up personality is adorable and adds to the charm of an already established ensemble at its A-game.
4. Other People (2016)
‘Other People ‘ on Netflix will get you laughing and bawling at the same time. This genre is a complex thing to do. There have been so many unsuccessful tries that a viewer like me gives up even before hitting the play button. But this Jesse Plemmons starrer was a surprise from the first minute to the last. Its depth, humor, and an immensely personal and human core are the highlights. Plemmons plays a homosexual character, David, without relying on normative practices. Seeing him the very first time reminded me of Seymour Hoffman’s Phil from ‘Magnolia’. He instantly gives you a sense of warmth and care. ‘Other People’s wistful tone, with extremely stark shades of humor and drama makes it a meditative excercise in grief and coping with the inevitable.
There are no major twists planned: in fact, the very first scene reveals what happens. From there on in, the narrative is like a ticking time bomb. As the end comes nearer, the atmosphere becomes chillier and more daunting for the viewer to face. Plemmons is the standout among the cast along with Molly Shannon. The mother-son duo gives many vulnerable moments that few actors have managed to deliver.
3. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
It is hard to sit through this film, I’ll be honest. I have the utmost respect for Mr. Kaufman’s ingenious body of work but there’s a point where it just goes off the rails. Internal psychological warfare defines the dreamy narrative that never sits still and always packs a surprise. The tangible confrontation with feelings manifests in some of the most absurdist ideas ever put on screen.
The film featured in The 50 Best Films of 2020
Jesse Plemons plays Jake, the love interest of the brilliant Jessie Buckley’s protagonist. The former’s typification of the boyfriend is a frighteningly real conception. Much of it has to do with how Mr. Kafuman works his actors but Plemmons puts in a great effort. ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ marks the juncture in Plemmon’s acting career from where he is not “other actors” but belongs to the sacred echelon of performers who make any movie special they star in.
2. Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)
‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ shows the first-mover bias that the film industry breeds. Any film released so far away from the awards season hardly gets any coverage when the year ends. The short memory does not serve as well as the film does a remarkable incident in American political history. The powerhouse cast consists of Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, and Jesse Plemmons as the pivots of the story. Betrayal, deceit, and tension run high in the power dynamics of the game between the authorities and rebels. Its condemning tone functions as a dialect of the racial injustices of its times. ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ gives Plemmons an opportunity to remain both, in the thick of things and detached from the mainstream action. He has no problems in switching on in between the reprieves. His understated act, like always, gets overshadowed by the force of nature performances from Kaluuya and Stanfield, but it is worth the watch.
1. The Power of the Dog (2021)
My favorite film from 2021 features a bunch of Oscar-worthy performances, barring the award themselves. ‘The Power of the Dog’ is an intense drama set on a picturesque Montana ranch in the 1920s. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons star as brothers, complete personality opposites, whose lives are turned upside down with the introduction of Rose, the latter’s wife. Although director Jane Campion’s (now, Oscar award winner Jane Campion!) scope of examination is broad, she carves out an enigmatic study of human emotions like jealousy and self-worth. Her story elements are simple but the execution and her craft put the outcome beyond it. Ari Wegner (DoP for films like ‘Lady Macbeth’, ‘ Zola ‘, ‘In Fabric’) and Campion are chiefs in turning the haunting landscape into a significant, breathing part of the story. Through the mountains and the terrain, we gain further insight into Phil’s personality. Films that do not tell you how you are supposed to feel are rare. Even rarer is the ability of a filmmaker to keep a consistent tone that is neither too abrasive theatrically, nor too languid in representing reality. But she creates the perfect balance.
There’s a great contrast between Plemmons and Cumberbatch that Campion draws to become the central conceit of ‘The Power of the Dog’. Viewing the two together is probably the most effective way to understand how they extract the best from each other. Their characterizations are near perfect, even more so with the tonality of the narrative. Plemmons looks assured throughout. His body language spews confidence in his abilities to pull off George’s mild demeanor. The role does not require too much outward emphasis but an internal maelstrom of feelings that he sets off brilliantly in his usual style.
Stream The Power of the Dogs on Netflix