Posts Tagged ‘Justin Timberlake’

Justin Timberlake, Ryder Allen

“PALMER”  My rating: B (Apple +)

110 minutes | MPAA rating: R

An paroled con returns to his Louisiana hometown and becomes the best friend and protector of a 10-year-old trans kid.

That’s the plot of “Palmer,” a film that pretty much delivers exactly what you expect.  Once it sets up its  premise the screenplay (by Cheryl Guerriero) really hasn’t any surprises up its sleeve.  It proceeds along the anticipated lines.

But if “Palmer” carries a high degree of predictability, that in no way limits its pleasures.  As directed by Fisher Stevens and performed by a first-rate cast the film is low-keyed, sincere, humanistic and occasionally shockingly tough.

One-time local football hero Palmer (Justin Timberlake) has spent a decade in stir for a beating up a man during a home burglary.  Despite the violence of his crime, he’s now something of a gentle soul — though he still likes the occasional bender.

Anyway, he moves in with the grandma (June Squibb) who reared him, eventually finds a job as a grade school custodian, and little by little is drawn into the life of Sam (Ryder Allen), a kid living in a doublewide adjacent to Granny’s place.

Sam has a drug-addled floozie Mama (Juno Temple).  He’s also obsessed with fairy princesses, wears a beret in his  hair, favors  shorts and cowboy boots and views the world through bottle-bottom spectacles.

The kid, Palmer announces, is weird. Doesn’t he know he’s a boy?

When Sam’s mom vanishes on one of her month-long benders, Sam washes up on Palmer’s doorstep. Reluctantly the parolee becomes the kids’ ex-officio guardian. A bond grows.

Like I said, predictable.

Nevertheless, the film succeeds. Timberlake delivers what may be his most nuanced and heartfelt work yet. Meanwhile young Allen seems to be simultaneously channeling Jonathan Lipnicki from “Jerry Maguire” and Abigail Breslin from “Little Miss Sunshine.”  The kid’s blend of unaffected innocence and preternatural braininess sticks with you.

While “Palmer” touches upon anti-trans prejudice, that really isn’t the film’s driving force.  This is a sort of love story between a needy boy and an equally needy man.

| Robert W. Butler

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Kate Winslet

“WONDER WHEEL” My rating: C-

101 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Spare me the bad drama,” cheating housewife Ginny (Kate Winslet) moans to her complaining boyfriend late in Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel.”

Funny, but those are exactly the sentiments of the audience watching the film.

Visually splendid but dramatically inert, “Wonder Wheel” plays like an idea plucked from Allen’s reject pile. About all it’s got going for it is a sense of time and place.

Set in Coney Island’s famed amusement park in the 1950s — and filmed by Vittorio Storaro with a near-Technicolor glow — this tale of an unfulfilled woman’s last chance at romance is a self-pity party of the first order. It’s one of Allen’s periodic attempts at straight drama…and as is usually the case when he blows off any semblance of humor, it’s a hard slog.

Winslet’s Ginny is a 39-year-old former actress (apparently she was limited to one-line roles) now married to Humpty (Jim Belushi), the big-bellied, balding operator of the Coney Island carousel.  They live in an apartment over a shooting gallery; their marvelous view of the nearby Wonder Wheel is undermined by the constant din of gunshots.

Early in Allen’s script the couple are visited by Humpty’s estranged daughter, Carolina (Juno Temple), who married a mobster, divorced him, sang to the feds and is now on the run from her ex’s murderous associates. She begs for Humpty to take her in.

Carolina’s arrival coincides with Ginny’s affair with a much younger lifeguard, Mickey (Justin Timberlake).  Mickey is one of Allen’s more impossible creations, an aspiring playwright who talks like a college freshman in the first throes of intellectual pretentiousness. And boy, does Mickey talk.  He’s the movie’s narrator, telling us what’s going on even as we’re watching what’s going on. Timberlake can do nothing with the character.

“Wonder Wheel” focuses on Ginny’s emotional and moral disintegration after learning that Mickey and Carolina are canoodling on the side. Her shrilly-expressed angst and jealousy are so altogether off-putting that not even Winslet can make her anything but irritating.

Allen is here clearly inspired by the Fifties New York dramas of Arthur Miller and William Inge (“Come Back, Little Sheba” especially), but those plays transcended their protagonists’ moral and intellectual shortcomings.

“Wonder Wheel” doesn’t come close.

| Robert W. Butler

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inside llewyn 2“INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS” My rating: B+ (Opening Dec. 20 at the Glenwood Arts)

105 minutes | MPAA rating: R

I freakin’ love “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the Coens’ moody, bitterly funny, dead-on accurate recreation of the early ’60s New York folk scene.

I love it despite the fact that it’s a downer — similar in mood to “Barton Fink” — and that its protagonist is a talented but selfish sphincter.  I love its atmosphere, I love the music.

Of course, the main character is a dick, and I might  love the film even more if it showed even a teeny bit of heart, but then it wouldn’t be a Coen Brothers movie.

We meet our titular protagonist, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), playing and singing in Greenwich Village’s Gaslight club in 1961. Llewyn (pronounced Lew-In) is performing a traditional song called “Hang Me Oh Hang Me,” and he’s really, really good.

Of course he’s also a folkie purist, a snob, and an artiste whose uncompromising vision pretty much rules out anything like commercial success. He’s like a perverse King Midas — everything he touches turns to crap.

The film follows Llewyn as he drifts around the city during a cold snap. Wearing nothing but a threadbare sports coat and a muffler, his touseled hair blowing in the frigid breeze, our man could almost be a character out of Dickens. (Clearly, the Coens have  studied the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” LP.)

He’s got no home so he crashes where he can. He spends a night with a Columbia University professor and his wife, and inadvertently lets the couple’s big orange cat escape. Locked out of the apartment, Llewyn has no option but to carry the feline about on his chilly perambulations.


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