REVIEW: Palmer (2021)

Justin Timberlake and Ryder Allen in “Palmer,” now streaming on Apple TV+. — Photo: Apple Original Films / Apple TV+.

Directed by Fisher Stevens — Screenplay by Cheryl Guerriero.

Fisher Stevens’ Palmer follows Eddie Palmer (the titular character played by Justin Timberlake), a former high school football star, who was just released from prison. Eddie goes to live with his grandmother, Vivian (played by June Squibb), and soon he seeks out a job as a janitor at a local school. Vivian tends to watch over their young neighbor, Sam (played by Ryder Allen). Sam, a flamboyant young boy who likes to play with dolls, is soon left with no guardian in sight when Vivian passes away and his mother, Shelly (played by Juno Temple), leaves town. Though he is initially reluctant, Eddie decides to do the right thing and become the temporary guardian for a young boy who keeps on challenging Palmer’s own prejudices.

You know, in all honesty, I think Fisher Stevens’ Palmer is a solid film, it is just a little bit of a shame that it’s ultimately somewhat unremarkable and entirely too predictable. Stevens’ film tells a nice story about different generations seeing eye to eye, as Eddie and Sam eventually understand and accept each other for who they really are. It is a sentimental film that provokes strong emotion, even though the film ultimately feels very familiar.

It is very obvious that the film will ultimately be about an ex-con rebuilding his life and learning what it means to be a man and a guardian. It is very obvious that he does this by meeting someone who directly challenges his previously held beliefs about social norms and gender roles. It is as clear as day that he will learn to stand up to the bullies that he has called acquaintances for too long. It is obvious that Sam’s mother will return. Just like you know exactly what happens next. I did, however, like the way the film communicated the idea that the film, in a way, is the main character’s journey towards being given the keys to a new lease on life.

What I liked more than anything else in the film was the characterization of Ryder Allen’s character, as well as the performance delivered by Allen. Sam’s personality is the beating heart of the film, and I thought Allen did a phenomenal job of bringing the character to life in a way that feels so genuine. I was actually concerned about Justin Timberlake in the film. I am a Timberlake fan. I’ve attended a Timberlake concert. But even though I like him as an actor just fine, we all know that he wasn’t made to play this kind of role. At first, I got hung up on the idea that he didn’t sound menacing enough when he was perturbed. However, I ended up liking what Timberlake brought to the role. I just wish his character’s journey hadn’t been so easy to predict at pretty much every plot development.

I feel like this review is a little bit too negative because the film did entertain me, it did provoke strong emotions, and I really liked the story that Fisher Stevens and writer Cheryl Guerriero told. I just think it is a shame that the filmmakers didn’t do enough with the well-trodden genre to actually set Palmer apart from other films like it. It feels like you’ve seen the movie before, and, in a way, you have. However, I do, ultimately, think most people will enjoy it because this is definitely a crowd-pleaser. So, I guess, this is a recommendation for those who don’t care about the fact that they’re watching a very familiar story.

6.5 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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