04th Feb2021

‘Palmer’ Review (Apple TV)

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Justin Timberlake, Ryder Allen, Alisha Wainwright, Juno Temple, June Squibb | Written by Cheryl Guerriero | Directed by Fisher Stevens

Why is Justin Timberlake not in more movies? It was about 15 years ago that I got to see Timberlake making his first proper foray into the movie realm with the superb Alpha Dog. A movie with a wealth of unreal talent, like Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch to name a couple, and somehow Timberlake was a standout in the flick. His role in Southland Tales was the next step in cementing himself as a star in my eyes and with The Social Network it was becoming apparent to everyone.

Then you could say things kinda tapered off ,with a string of leading man roles in generic rom-coms failing to hit the mark and taking the odd bit-part and focusing back on the singing career. I have always been a fan of his big-screen ventures because one thing is for sure the dude can act. So here we are 2021 and Justin Timberlake is back in a leading role he can sink his teeth into with Palmer, which is directed by Fisher Stevens too (remember him from Short Circuit, Hackers and everything else ever?)

Palmer (Timberlake) is returning home after doing 12 years in prison for beating a man half to death. He returns to his small hometown to live with his grandma, who has a tendency of taking in lost causes. After finding it hard to get on without his past coming up he is given a chance at the local school as a janitor, shortly after his gran takes in young Sam (Ryder Allen) who lives in the trailer next door when his mum disappears with her boyfriend. After the passing of his gran Palmer and Sam strike up the most unlikely of bonds and begin to show each other that there is such thing as a second chance.

If I had to sum up Palmer in one word it would simply be “safe”. Now let me just say that I enjoyed the film and the performances were great, especially from Timberlake. It was just that the story didn’t go anywhere; it didn’t commit to its most interesting story beats; it just wandered along at no real pace and that, dear readers, is a real shame because there were so many roads I thought this movie was going to go down; and yes those roads have been a bit cliched but for christ’s sake it would of been something at least.

Performance-wise I had no complaints here. Timberlake is superb and was a ball hair away from moving me to literal tears, the only thing stopping this was the plot and its inability to pursue an interesting thread. Young Ryder Allen as Sam is wonderful and plays a very complex and tricky role with ease and you know what? He absolutely sold the role for me! In a time of uncertainty and the ever-changing times it’s absolutely important to have characters like this portrayed the way Sam is portrayed. The chemistry between these two was captivating. No drama would be complete without a love interest and here we have Alisha Wainwright, who doesn’t have a massive great deal to do, but she is great and I want to see her turning up in more.

Overall Palmer is a very well made and very well performed film; I have very few gripes but I am very well aware that the somewhat “towing the line” story is being held up by a simply stunning performance from its core cast. Sometimes that can absolutely be enough but other times you need a story that’s not afraid to be what it wants to be. Fisher Stevens is clearly an excellent director, Cheryl Guerrerio is a fantastic writer and both these things show on screen. We also have two very strong leads and a child star to keep an eye on going forward. I just feel like when you have all the right ingredients, then you should be gung ho on taking a risk because 90% of the time the risk is where the reward is.

Palmer is definitely an above-average movie that should be seen and deserves your time but if you don’t have an Apple TV+ subscription and can’t stream it, I’m sure you’ll still be fine.

***½  3.5/5

Palmer is available on Apple TV now.

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