The time has come for Eddie Palmer ( Justin Timberlake ) to start over, or so he hopes. In fact, it is difficult. Nobody cares about a convicted criminal who is out on parole. After all , he can rely on his grandmother Vivian ( June Squibb ), who has always been like a mother to him and who now welcomes him again with open arms. While he is still in the process of reorienting himself and putting his life in order, chaos threatens next door. Neighbor Shelly ( Juno Temple ) has disappeared, once again, and has her son Sam ( Ryder Allen) left alone. So Palmer takes care of the boy, even if he always irritates him at the beginning. After all, he likes to watch a cartoon series about princesses on television and wants to look like one himself …
After looking like Justin Timberlake would become a fixture in the movie business for a while, things had gotten pretty quiet around him in that regard over the past few years. Although he was busy, he recorded another album and took care of his family. In terms of film, however, he has hardly been seen since 2013. Wonder Wheel from 2017 was his only actual feature film during this time, otherwise he voiced his voice in the animated film Trolls and the sequel to one of the characters. It was therefore a bit of a surprise when it was said that he would take on a leading role in the Apple TV + Original Palmer and start a new attempt.
But what is even more surprising is what he is back with. He obviously wants to leave the times in which Timberlake shot harmless mass-produced goods behind and be taken seriously as an actor. In return, he slips into the role of a convicted criminal in Palmer , who has gotten little else on the line in life, but thanks to the friendship with a boy finally realizes a kind of meaning and task. His character is not particularly happy about the circumstances, actually he wants to get rid of Sam right away. At first he is overwhelmed with the prospect of playing a kind of surrogate father. But it doesn’t help, there is no one else there except him.
There are of course not a few such stories. Children are often used in films to give adults a new perspective on life. Last year, Lorelei was a very similar drama about an ex-convict who struggles out in the real world and is slowly growing into his role as a surrogate father. So Palmer is moving on familiar paths here, and does not even try to break out of them in any way and to challenge the audience. In the end, the dramaturgy of the film is so predictable that you know exactly what is going to happen before it even happens. And even with the title character, they were ultimately satisfied with clichés.
The representation of the child is unusual. A boy who plays with dolls, meets with girls for tea parties and wants to look like a princess? You don’t see that in a film every day. It goes without saying that such behavior can become a problem, especially if the story takes place in a rural area. While all women like to play along and let him do it, the obligatory conflicts with the rednecks or classmates are inevitable. It’s nice how the film makes it clear that Sam may be different, but doesn’t necessarily have to change because of that. Palmer is not a coming-of-age film about a boy who finds his place, but rather shows an adult who first has to learn for himself that the world out there is more colorful than he originally thought.
It is precisely the interaction between Timberlake and his young colleague Ryder Allen, who is making his film debut here, that distinguishes the drama. It’s just touching to watch how the two initially strangers get closer, form a bond and thus find their way through life more securely and richer. The exaggerations that screenwriter Cheryl Guerriero came up with didn’t really need it. At least not in this formulaic form. But even if it would have been nicer if the script had paid more attention to details and character drawings, if it had relied more on everyday life instead of just trying to clothe conventions, it still remains a solid work, its commitment to tolerance and self-development never remains is wrong.