by dustin brewer
Hulu’s new film “Palm Springs” benefits from many things; a refreshing twist on a standard plot, strong chemistry & lead performances from Andy Samberg & Cristin Milioti, and the fact that it’s the perfect movie to watch as you continue to feel the effects of months spent in seclusion.
Everything about “Palm Springs” plays like a typical romantic comedy until it doesn’t. Sarah meets Nyles at her sister’s wedding and is smitten by his quirky charm and surprising ability to seem to know exactly what is going to happen and when. Then J.K. Simmons starts hunting Samberg through the desert with a bow and arrow, all hell breaks loose, and you realize that no amount of effort is gonna stuff this movie back in that preconceived box it was just in.
Once Sarah finds herself “in one of those infinite time loop situations you might have heard about” with Nyles, “Palm Springs” revels in subverting any of your expectations. With Nyles, the seasoned time loop veteran who has seen and done it all, and Sarah, the viewer’s proxy who is trying to understand everything that’s going on, the movie is able to offer the type of dynamic that is typically lacking from time loop movies like “Groundhog Day”, “Source Code”, and “Edge of Tomorrow: Live Die Repeat.”
Both Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti are terrific in their roles. You genuinely care for the two and as the story unfolds and their motivations become clear, you’re torn between wanting them to find a way out and just wanting them to both be happy. The secret weapon of the movie though is in its’ darkness. The idea of being stuck in an infinite time loop and being forced to live the same day over and over is an inherently dark one. At the start of the movie, Nyles is clearly defeated and has accepted is de facto purgatory that he’s stuck in. Going so far as to offer Sarah tips to help kill themselves faster so that they can restart the day with minimal pain or discomfort. Yes it’s a funny line delivered well by Samberg, but the thought of him knowing from experience and being stuck writhing in pain for hours is always right there below the surface.
The dichotomy between the two main characters also highlights this as the perfect movie to watch as the coronavirus pandemic only gets worse in the U.S. and people are forced to continue to stay inside and quarantine. Frustrations have continued to mount as people do the same things over and over every day under lockdown, either driving themselves crazy or accepting that things are beyond their control and that the sooner they sit down, crack a beer (or like 55, seriously, Samberg is cracking open cold ones almost nonstop) and just enjoy the ride. Either way though, the movie posits, you need someone there with you to help it from all being too overwhelming.
To go into much detail about J.K. Simmons’ role would be giving too much away. So to keep it as spoiler-free as possible: Simmons’ Roy acts as a bridge between Sarah and Nyles. From desperation to dismay, he’s been there and done that and enforces that nothing can change until you accept the situation you’re in. It also emphasizes how important it is to find someone you’re willing to share everything with. Days spent doing insane things like flying planes or shooting guns to feeling at your lowest as you drift around in the pool, there is a comfort in having the perfect companion through it all.
At the surface it looks like “Palm Springs” is just going to be another wedding-based romantic indie comedy but the movie delights in turning convention on its’ head at any and every possibility. The result is a movie that feels fresh and keeps you thinking long after the credits have rolled. Written by Andy Siara and directed by Max Barbakow (his directorial debut), the movie never tries to slow or dumb down anything that’s going on, instead, they flip it the other way and continue to find as many differences as possible to exploit as they revisit the same day again and again.
If you’re finding yourself tired of quarantine, bored, and stuck in the same routine over and over, embrace your inner Nyles: crack open a beer, sit down, and get lost in “Palm Springs.” Just make sure that you have the right Sarah by your side. Because otherwise, what’s the point?
Check out “Palm Springs” streaming now on Hulu and listen to our episode of Empty Your Queue all about the movie. You can follow Hefferbrew on Twitter and stay tuned for all the latest movie news and reviews.