Palmer — Movie Review

by KJ Proulx

Justin Timberlake and Ryder Allen in ‘Palmer’ [Credit: Apple TV+]

Before The Social Network was released back in 2010, I never thought of Justin Timberlake as an actor. Yes, he was solid in the film Alpha Dog, but I believe that being directed by David Fincher really broadened his horizons. Starring in films like Friends with Benefits, Trouble with the Curve, or even In Time, he has proven that there’s more to him than meets the eye in terms of acting. Palmer only furthered those thoughts for me. While Timberlake never seems to choose projects that will win him awards, he’s always very, very solid in whichever role he does take. Palmer has many similar tropes to movies you’ve seen before, but here’s why the subject matter, along with a great central performance by Timberlake, warrants a viewing.

After serving time for over a decade, Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) returns home to live with his grandmother, only to see that a troubled family lives next door. Their young boy Sam eventually forms a bond with Palmer, even though Palmer wants literally nothing to do with him when the film opens. Struggling to fit in for being different than other boys in his school, Palmer slowly becomes the father figure that this boy may just need in his life. This sort of premise has been done time and time again, just in different variations. What set it aside from all the others for me though, was the fact that the screenplay by Cheryl Guerriero was far better than I expected it to be.

Yes, when breaking the overall movie down, there are some very rushed aspects of the story in the third act, but the dramatic elements to the film felt very authentic. You could tell this was a story that came from the heart. I believed the majority of the dialogue that nearly every character had, which is why I also feel that this movie sputtered slightly towards the end. As much as I loved the dialogue written for these performers, the meat of the story is whether or not Palmer is the right fit for Sam and certain elements of that are sort of thrown away in the third act. There is a resolution to everything, but it feels rushed in comparison with the rest of the film.

Now to dive into the performances, because this is a film that relies heavily on selling the premise at hand. As I said, I’ve always enjoyed the on-screen presence of Justin Timberlake and I truly believe that there is an argument to be made here that he’s never been better. I was engaged in this film because of his committed performance. On top of that, young Ryder Allen played off him incredibly well and their bond made this film so much more likeable. Alisha Wainwright as Maggie was also excellent, and Juno Temple as Sam’s mother Shelly has a couple of scene-stealing moments as well.

In the end, Palmer is the type of film that’s designed to be a tear-jerker and those types of films can feel extremely heavy-handed, but I’m just glad to say this one doesn’t. It took me on an emotional journey and I was in tears by the end, but it never felt forced. Sadly, the conclusion is far too rushed and revelations and answers are brushed over multiple times. It’s almost as though this movie was too focused on creating dramatic scenes that it forgot how to properly reach a conclusion. Still, I really enjoyed watching it and I believe it’s worth your time. Palmer is now streaming on Apple TV+.

Rating: 3.5/5

Check out the trailer below:

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Film Lover First. Critic Second.

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