Movie review: Palmer
Given that he’s apologising for his past actions/inaction in the Britney Spears-Janet Jackson scandals, it hasn’t been the best time to promote a Justin Timberlake project.
Which is a shame, because Palmer - currently available on Apple TV+ - is 100 per cent wonderful.
There's also a tinge of irony in that it also features Timberlake playing a remorseful character.
With its single surname title and moody poster, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a tale of revenge in the Deep South.
It’s actually one of the more heart-warming films available in the wide world of streaming. But don't think this is a schmaltz-fest.
Timberlake plays Eddie Palmer, a fallen high school sports hero, fresh from a 12-stretch in prison and looking to rebuild.
Moving in with his grandmother (June Squibb), he finds that she has been looking after her neighbour’s boy Sam (Ryder Allen), because Sam’s mother (Juno Temple) is a substance-abusing nightmare with an abusive boyfriend who often skips town.
Yet, Sam is a delight. He also loves his princess dolls and watches his princess cartoons.
Not surprisingly, it makes him a bully target. Even Eddie tries to get him to be more of a boy.
But Eddie soon finds himself Sam’s caregiver and protector. Two outsiders against the world.
We’ve seen this gruff character turn reluctant father figure many times before.
So there’s nothing groundbreaking, but the pace of the story – written by Cheryl Guerriero and directed by former actor Fisher Stevens - keeps this feeling fresh and less Lifetime movie.
Of course, there’s some great acting to make this stand out.
Timberlake plays it taciturn and delivers some genuinely moving moments.
At the opposite end of the volume dial, Temple makes the most of her limited screentime and crashes in to make you hate, sympathise and want to escape from her all at the same time.
But it is nine-year-old Allen who shines in his star turn.
Sam’s purposefully polite demeanour (an emulation of everything Eddie’s grandmother inculcated) soon has you willing him to succeed.
He’s half-oblivious as to why playing with dolls can cause trouble, yet half-defiant because it is simply what he likes.
Palmer is shot through with an honesty that makes this more than just an experiment in sentiment.
But just in case you are under the impression this is a great watch for the family, it is M18 thanks to a peppering of swearing, a sex scene, drug abuse and some violence. It does make you wonder if a less-adult version would improve its chance of success.
It’s unlikely to bother the Oscars, but this really is the most heartwarming film of the past year and it’s well worth 110 minutes of your time.