As “Palmer,” Justin Timberlake Shines

Now streaming on Apple+

Known more as a boy band grad who transitioned to soulful superstardom in his own right, Justin Timberlake says bye bye bye to just being a celebrity in occasional cameos and thrusts his thespian chops to a fierce forefront. Palmer (B-) by director Fisher Stevens is decent in every sense of the word, an earnest yet predictable movie about redemption and resiliency featuring JT as an ex-con with a heart of gold and child actor Ryder Allen as the gender-nonconforming boy next door who benefits from a non-judgmental father figure. The genuine goodness of the stoic single man’s burgeoning paternal qualities with the princess-loving preteen is the heart of the story and often quite affecting. Timberlake is in nearly every scene of the movie and endearing in his performance, and yet it’s still hard to connect to his past crimes and circumstances. We don’t really get much of a glimpse into his worst instincts. Allen is a revelation as his fanciful foil. But despite some seeming detours to the dark side, most of the movie sticks to formula. Alisha Wainwright is a standout with a committed performance as a teacher and love interest; but like participants in many of the plot threads, her character remains a bit underdeveloped. Still it’s a largely sunny discovery of a film and, if in case the notion were ever lost, it’s bringin’ sexy sentimentality back.

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