Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Movie with Abe: Palmer

Directed by Fisher Stevens
Released January 29, 2021 (Apple TV Plus)

It’s not easy for someone to escape their past, and that process is made considerably more difficult when everyone is aware of that history. Starting over in the same place requires a strong resolve and an ability to cast off the judgmental looks and comments of others who have less faith in rehabilitation or the true ability to change. Believing in the possibility of a return to something normal and the outgrowing of an unfortunate reputation is crucial, and even a positive attitude may not be enough to fully anticipate curveballs and other unexpected obstacles.

Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) is released from prison after serving twelve years and comes back to his Louisiana hometown. While he is warmly welcomed back by his grandmother (June Squibb), others are less forgiving of the violent nature of his conviction and uninspired by his apparent commitment to a new life. After he is hired as a janitor at a school, Palmer develops a close bond with Sam (Ryder Allen), the seven-year-old son of a drug-addicted mother, Shelly (Juno Temple), who disappears for an extended period of time. His newfound friendship with Sam and a budding romantic relationship with a teacher, Maggie (Alisha Wainwright), suggest an unprecedented hope for Palmer’s future that feels ready to be shattered at any moment.

There is something endearing and uplifting about the relationship between Palmer and Sam, one that begins with the adult party uninterested in spending time with a little kid but quickly sympathetic to the fact that he is mostly alone and often bullied at school. His tendency to dress in typically female clothing strikes Palmer as peculiar, but seeing others treat him poorly is much more of a trigger for the protective Palmer, whose temper is his worst enemy. Just as Palmer is an influence on the impressionable young Sam, his youth and most wide-eyed perspective on the world also help Palmer to come to terms with who he has become.

Timberlake started his career as a musician before transitioning to film work, mostly in comedic roles. He is skilled as a dramatic actor, but this role doesn’t really allow him to use his talents as well as other parts have in the past. The personality and energy that he possesses is all bottled up underneath a more serious, somber exterior, and seeing more of that might have been appealing. Allen, in his first film role, is extraordinary, a clear standout in a relatively standard unlikely friendship story.


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