Justin Timberlake plays an ex-criminal who befriends a little boy and not only learns a life lesson from him – the premise of the Apple original film PALMER sounds familiar, but director Fisher Stevens prepares it pleasantly. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Palmer (USA 2021)
After twelve years in prison, Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) wants to get his life back under control. He is given shelter by his mother Vivian (June Squibb), who hopes that her son is finally off the hook. When he soon gets a job as a janitor at a school, Eddie’s life seems to be looking up again, but a stroke of fate brings him back down to earth. Now he suddenly finds himself all alone – and with him little Sam (Ryder Allen), who comes from a difficult background and increasingly sees Eddie as a father figure. At first, the ex-criminal is not that enthusiastic about his protégé despite himself. But little by little the two grow closer together…
Apple TV+, the VOD service from tech giant Apple, is now over a year old. The potential Netflix competitor was launched on November 1, 2019, but has so far left hardly any noticeable mark in the wide world of streaming. The film scene continues to dominate the competition, consisting of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ – and not just when you look at the user numbers, but also in terms of perception in the film-centric press. Due to the lack of corresponding publications, there is hardly any talk about Apple originals that are worth seeing; Only the Tom Hanks vehicle “Greyhound”, which was originally produced for the cinema, and Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks” with Bill Murray and Rashida Jones received a little attention – certainly due to the top-class cast. We cannot judge at this point to what extent the latest Apple original “Palmer” could succeed in highlighting Apple TV+ as a film production facility. Especially since without the appropriate advertising outside of the film bubble, which already keeps an eye on all new releases, word would hardly have gotten around that the new film with Justin Timberlake (“Friends with Benefits”) is now available on the streaming service. But perhaps constant dripping will wear away the stone, because this time too Apple TV+ scores with big names and high production value.
Eddie (Justin Timberlake) and Sam (Ryder Allen) get closer.
Screenwriter Cheryl Guerriero is responsible for the content (“Pledge This!”) into all too familiar territory. For example, “Palmer” has great similarities to David Gordon Green’s “Joe” from 2013, in which Nicolas Cage plays the role of an ex-con in which 15-year-old Gary, who comes from a miserable home, finds a friend. While the events in “Joe” soon escalate – the film has a 16+ rating for good reason – “Palmer”, on the other hand, seems like a slightly softer version of this same story. But although director Fisher Stevens (“Stand Up Guys”) dresses his third feature film in largely pleasing images and follows a fairly formulaic drama structure in terms of narrative, this pleasantness primarily relates to the relationship between Eddie and his protégé Sam. The budding friendship of these two completely different contemporaries has a certain fairytale character and is portrayed in an extremely warm-hearted manner by Justin Timberlake and newcomer Ryder Allen. But around the two of them, Cheryl Guerriero builds an environment that fell victim to the “poverty porn” genre in the book adaptation “Hillbilly Elegy,” which was recently released on Netflix, but is presented here in neither a romanticized nor sensational way. Instead, the harmful influences on Sam manifest themselves in a little boy who has a remarkable talent for self-reflection and knows how to maneuver himself out of the victim role with his cleverness and eloquence.
“The burgeoning friendship of these two completely different contemporaries has a certain fairytale feel and is portrayed in an extremely warm-hearted manner by Justin Timberlake and newcomer Ryder Allen.”
There have been plenty of examples in the past of how quickly the figure of an extremely smart child can turn unpleasantly smart; Stephen Chbosky’s tragicomedy “Miracle” was such a case, as were the two resoundingly failed fantasy spectacles “Artemis Fowl” and “The Time Puzzle”. The Sam in “Palmer,” on the other hand, doesn’t need a fake know-it-all attitude to reveal the soft core of his rough-and-tumble guardian; on the contrary. Sam’s clever way of dealing with his situation as a child who comes from a difficult home with a drug-stricken mother never works its way to the surface in an arrogant way, but rather in the form of endlessly naive (but in terms of content not at all stupid) comments, in which Sam’s ability to adapt and the vulnerability of a child’s soul culminates in a personality with strong character that is vastly superior to Eddie, who is actually much older. “Palmer” is not just a film about an unequal friendship in a difficult environment with elements of white trash, but also an examination of gender identity.
Sam really thrives when playing with his best friend.
Although it is relatively difficult to portray a thoroughly unpleasant character from a sunny boy like Justin Timberlake (in this respect, a different casting of his role could have made the film a bit more attractive), but when his Eddie, whom everyone calls Palmer, is forceful to little Sam It is clear that, as a boy, he was not allowed to play with dolls, one has the impression for a brief moment that this man, who is essentially capable of tenderness and loving gestures, does not completely correspond to the image of a protagonist without corners and edges. Although the script here could have gone a little more in-depth, what I particularly like about “Palmer” is the subplot surrounding Sam’s worldview, which is freed from gender clichés: without unnecessarily sexualizing Sam, who is seven in the film, Eddie suddenly sees himself with his own He is confronted with a backward moral compass when Sam – a boy – who is growing ever closer to his heart, wants to go to the Halloween festival in a princess costume or prefers to go on play dates with a little girl. It’s just a shame that Fisher Stevens underlines the mental change of his main character with some very clichéd scenes – he could have spared himself a few outbursts towards Sam’s schoolmates.
“’Palmer’ is not just a film about an unequal friendship in a difficult environment with white trash elements, but also an examination of gender identity.”
The intervening (and not really necessary) adrenaline spikes sometimes make “Palmer” more sensational than it actually is. This also applies to the very hasty ending, with which director Fisher somewhat destroys the careful structure of the preceding hour and three-quarters. Particularly when it comes to Sam’s addicted mother, Shelly (Juno Temple), the script lacks tact, which could have brought more out of the character than a junkie stereotype. Like the character of June Squibb (“Table 19”)who, despite her only brief appearance, can have a massive impact on the ambivalent moral orientation of the film, as all the positive and negative aspects of “Palmer” come together in her character.
Conclusion: With his sensitive and pleasing drama “Palmer”, Fisher Stevens creates an entertaining film about the friendship of two unlike people, which works much better in quiet tones than in those moments when it gets unnecessarily loud. But the fantastic interaction between Justin Timberlake and Ryder Allen alone makes it worth taking a look.
“Palmer” is available to stream exclusively on Apple TV+.