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Palmer is part of the latest push by Apple TV+ to infiltrate awards season. Starring Justin Timberlake, the film follows a recently released ex-convict who becomes an unlikely mentor for a gender non-conforming child who has been abandoned by his family.

The drama is set to hit Apple TV+ on Friday, Jan. 29. Thanks to the Academy’s lengthened eligibility window and welcoming of streaming-only titles, this release date will allow the film to qualify for the 2021 Oscars, and it’s a good thing too, as the film is clearly hoping to snag at least a couple of nominations.

Justin Timberlake returns to serious acting in ‘Palmer’

In Palmer, Timberlake plays Eddie Palmer, a man coming off of a 12-year prison sentence that derailed his promising high school football career. He takes up work as a school janitor and ends up watching over a young boy, Sam (Ryder Allen), who doesn’t adhere to typical gender norms and whose mother has left him.

Palmer’s mentoring relationship with Sam propels him to rebuild his life while also reassessing his own rough-hewn Southern notions of life and masculinity. Based on the trailer, it also seems that he might engage in some sort of custody battle with Sam’s mother.

Alongside Timberlake and Allen, Palmer also stars June Squibb as the main character’s mother, and Shadowhunters star Alisha Wainwright as Maggie, a teacher who develops a romantic relationship with Palmer.

The film’s script, written by Cheryl Guerriero, first gained attention when it was featured on the Black List, a yearly rundown of the most-liked unproduced screenplays circulating in Hollywood, in 2016. It is directed by Fisher Stevens, an actor-turned-director mostly known for his documentary work, including Crazy Love, The Cove, and the Leonardo DiCaprio produced climate change awareness film, Before the Flood. His most recent fiction work was 2012’s Stand-Up Guys, a heist film starring Al Pacino and Christopher Walken.

Apple continues to pursue awards credibility

Palmer star Justin Timberlake during the filming for the Graham Norton Show
Justin Timberlake | Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images

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While some of the shows produced by Apple TV+, like The Morning Show, have garnered Emmy nominations, the platform’s films are still working on attracting Oscar buzz. The company intended for The Banker, a biopic starring Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson, to be its first shot at awards buzz in 2019, but the film had to be delayed due to troubling allegations made against one of its producers, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It eventually hit Apple TV+ in March 2020 to little fanfare.

Now, Apple is making a late play for awards attention in 2021. In addition to Palmer, which could put Timberlake in the conversation for Best Actor, the company will also release the Tom Holland vehicle Cherry in select theaters on Feb. 26, just before the eligibility window closes.

Directed by Avengers: Endgame‘s Anthony and Joe Russo, Cherry stars Holland as an Iraq War veteran who turns to bank robbery after leaving the service and developing a crippling addiction to opioids. The story is based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name written by Nico Walker, who served as a medic in Iraq from 2005-2006