“Palmer” (2021)–Second Chances

In this little sleeper of a movie, Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) is released from prison after serving twelve years for attempted murder in a robbery gone wrong.  With nowhere to live but at his beloved grandmother’s (June Squibb of Nebraska), Palmer soon is forced to reexamine his life and,  in the process of learning to accept his past, finds ways of expressing his feelings.  A bullied young non-binary child, Sam  (Ryder Allen), lives with his drug addicted mother, Shelly (Juno Temple),  in a trailer on the grandmother’s property.  Soon they enter Palmer’s life in a major, life-transforming way.

Palmer is a macho character, the badass who reflexively expressed himself with his fists in his pre-prison past.  Yet, Sam–who is bullied repeatedly for his love of princesses, tiaras, and dolls–sits down with Palmer and expresses his joy at being who he is. Both Sam and Palmer are allowed to be painfully vulnerable in these scenes.  Full, absolute, acceptance is the overriding theme and heart of Palmer. There’s no denying who you are and no reason to try to change.

Palmer is a poignant, unexpected winner.  It is  very difficult to develop the character of a little boy who just doesn’t happen to conform to normative male traits.  Sam has personal dreams that don’t meet others’ expectations and he wants to be fine with that.  The quiet, understated performance by Justin Timberlake as the tight-lipped small-town miscreant– to whom no one wants to give a second chance to–is his  finest yet. And the angel-faced Ryder Allen is  cast so perfectly  that this viewer forgot, at times, that he was acting.  Check this one out!

Note:  Compare Palmer to Peanut Butter Falcon starring Shia LaBoeuf, on a similar theme.  Both are good films  but I would choose Palmer  if you have only time or interest in watching one portrayal of a millennial lost soul and his friendship with a young boy.

Availability:  Apple TV+

“Trouble with the Curve”—Catching the Unexpected

Trouble with the Curve
Trouble with the Curve

This 2012 film is another  Clint Eastwood sports movie. That being said, “Trouble with the Curve” is not so much about sports as it is about a father-daughter relationship. It also touches on how the human element (and an “old-school” methodology) cannot be discounted in favor of technology. (Think: “Money Ball” as its opposite!)

In the opening scene Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) is attempting to hide his macular degeneration from the execs at the Atlanta Braves, because, as one of their top scouts, he must be able to spot the next star. But crusty, aging Gus is more than a pair of eyes with over forty years of experience. He can tell a pitch by the crack of the bat and now must fight for the career that defines him. Gus’s daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), a high-powered lawyer on the partner track, has also gained an astonishing knowledge of the sport. But father and daughter are estranged and rarely see each other.

Forced to be together for the first time in years, Mickey and her father travel to North Carolina to look at the slate of possible rookies. Mickey risks her own career to do this. A classic double-bind plot device.

In a surprise supporting role Justin Timberlake plays an aspiring recruiter and former baseball rookie, who tries to woo Mickey even though she is reluctant to become involved.

Even if you are not a baseball fan, you will enjoy this movie. A thoroughly entertaining, feel-good film with some humorous dialogue and some totally predictable scenes. The family secret for the estrangement between father and daughter is one curve this viewer did not expect. A good movie for both adult and teen audiences!