By Michael Smith
When I try to place Palace into a genre, drama is one of the first to mind, but this does not fully encapsulate this film. Rather, this film is best categorized within a type more associated with anime. I’m talking about the “slice of life” genre. “Slice of life” refers to a storytelling structure that presents a seemingly arbitrary sample of a character’s life. These types of stories often lack a coherent plot, a conflict, or an ending.
Even though Palace is a “slice of life,” all of the characters in this film have at least one thing in common: they all pass through the same bar. The first character we meet is Chris. He is the classic middle America stereotype. He is a mechanic who is stuck in his job and wants to bring work back to his area. He leans right politically and feels disenfranchised with society.
The next character we follow is Chuck. He is elderly and retired and lives in an apartment above the bar. He is there every day. To many passersby, he seems to be living the life; in reality, he is lonely and visits the bar so he has people to talk to. We later find out that he is widowed and has almost no contact or interaction with his two daughters.
The third and final character we follow is Alexa. We first see her with a group of friends in the bar when Chuck comes over to make conversation with them. She is a college student resisting her parents’ attempts to control her education and stop her from pursuing her dream of being a music producer. Alexa also has a breakdown and sees a therapist for mental issues. We also learn that she has yet to come out to her parents.
I really enjoyed this film, and there are many positive aspects to it, but one thing that may turn off many people is the unconventional type of story. One of the elements of the “slice of life” genre is that there is not a singular conflict thread to follow through the movie. We follow each character through their life and the challenges that come with it. This may leave some viewers dissatisfied with the story. One thing that Palace does have in spite of the genre is plenty of character development. Each character has an arc, even if the changes are slight.
Overall, Palace hits a very niche category of film that may not appeal to all viewers. If this movie doesn’t sound like your thing, you can skip it. However, if you can get behind a story following three contained sections about three different people who collide in at a crossroads, then yes, go see Palace.