PALMER – A Review by Cynthia Flores
The 1930s iconic star W.C. Fields is quoted as saying, “Never work with children or animals.” Well, I think Justin Timberlake might agree. In his new film, Palmer, eight-year-old actor Ryder Allen steals every scene he’s in. The kid practically runs away with the movie that’s supposed to be about Timberlake’s ex-con starting over.
Palmer tells the story of Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake). He’s a former hometown hero whose football career ended his first year playing in college. His bad choices and a weakness for the pain pills he was given after a football injury led him to do hard time in prison. He did his time without complaint, and once released, he returns to the small town in Louisiana where he grew up. Staying with the grandmother that raised him, Vivian (June Squibb), he starts at the bottom to make a new life for himself.
She is a nurturing woman who only asks Palmer three things if he wants to live with her. He must find a job, go to church with her on Sundays, and be kind to a small kid named Sam (Ryder Allen). Sam is a sweet boy that wears barrettes and plays with dolls. He lives with his drug-addicted mother, Shelly (Juno Temple), and her angry boyfriend Jerry (Dean Winters) in the rented trailer on Vivian’s side yard.
Palmer manages to get a job as a janitor at the local elementary school that Sam goes to. The kid stays with Vivian when Shelly and Jerry vanish for days or weeks at a time. Sam tells Palmer, princesses are his “Favorite thing in the whole world,” to which Palmer asks him, “You know you’re a boy, right?” That is as deep as Sam’s gender nonconformist attitudes are really discussed. Vivian loves the boy and is Sam’s de facto family when Shelly is gone on one of her long benders. Palmer is left with the boy once Vivian passes one morning. The two bond and he chooses to take care of Sam to keep him out of the system.
The story goes on to include Sam’s pretty, divorced teacher Miss Maggie (Alisha Wainwright). The relationship between her and Palmer comes across as natural and effortless as she volunteers her assistance with Sam’s care. All is going well until Shelly comes back home, strung out on drugs and wanting Sam back. Palmer must fight for Sam when the time comes.
Overall, I really wanted to like this film more than I found I actually did. It’s a very uneven movie. There are great moments of watching Timberlake being dramatic and tender, especially with the little kid. You fall in love with Sam’s pudgy character, and his situation will make you cry. However, Palmer’s heavy-handedness while championing Sam’s gender nonconformity without actually giving a reason why makes the film fall short.
I give Palmer a 3-5-star rating. It is worth watching, but make sure to have tissues handy.
Directed by: Fisher Stevens
Written by: Cheryl Guerriero
Selig Rating: 3.5 Stars
Running Time: 1hr 50min
Release: January 29th on Apple TV+
Starring: Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, Ryder Allen, Alisha Wainwright, June Squibb
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.