Film Review: Palm Springs

Cool poster for 2020’s Palm Springs.

Well, that was delightful. I heard about 2020’s Hulu original film, Palm Springs, when it first released in July this year, but I was avoiding it. I wasn’t in the headspace to watch a romantic comedy, but tonight, I was. And boy, it was delightful. That’s the third film I’ve watched this year (after the first two Happy Death Day films) where they utilize the Groundhog Day theme of the characters being stuck in a time loop and they find love. But it just works as a plot device and premise? In this case, Nyles (played by Andy Samberg, who I took way too long to realize was the lead in the hilarious sitcom, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and also, who bears a striking resemblance in face and mannerisms to one of my childhood friends) is stuck in a time loop at a wedding, and Sarah (played by Cristin Millioti), the sister of the bride, inadvertently gets stuck in the loop, too. Hijinks and love ensues.

The face of existential dread.

Samberg is fantastic in the role because he plays the typically aloof almost stoner-like character who is embracing the nihilism and hedonism of the loop — nothing matters, so why not engage in as much debauchery as possible from designer drugs to sex to random goofy acts of craziness — but who is also earnest, so well, until Sarah joins him. That’s when everything changes, and he falls for her. She also embraces the nihilism of it, as they engage in a bunch of goofy skits, like a 1950s dance musical inside a rural bar, but also, there’s sweet tenderness involved when they have (what she thinks) is their first sexual encounter. It feels authentic and loving when it does finally happen, even though for Nyles, it’s happened hundreds of times before because god knows how long he’s been in the loop. She’s obviously miffed about that, but also, she and her sister’s soon-to-be husband slept together. Therefore, every time Sarah wakes up to restart the day, she wakes up with him, and is reminded of her terrible act. For both reasons, she wants out of the loop.

She hunkers down with quantum physics and general relativity videos, and realizes, she could probably break the loop if she kamikazes herself inside the cave where she gained the looping abilities in the first place. But then, Nyles is freaking out about this because he wants to stay in the loop and with her and he loves her, but is it really love since, in essence, it’s the classic, “If you were the last person on Earth,” type deal? It is love, all the same, and he goes into the cave kamikaze style with her, and it works! They escape the loop and live, presumably, happy ever after.

Heading into the abyss like.

It’s delightful! I said Samberg was great, but the movie really works because of Millioti. She plays Sarah, both her fierceness, brokenness, similar aloofness, craziness when embracing the nihilism, fun when embracing the goofiness, and the tenderness and lovely moments, all to a tee.

As a comedy, it wasn’t that funny, and I don’t think I laughed out loud much at all, but it’s immensely watchable and delightful as a romantic sci-fi flick. I’ll take delightful, charming and endearing all day long, please.

One thing I just realized, too, Nyles and Sarah are kind of jerks! They figure out how to get out of the loop and do it, but don’t tell Roy (played by the always fantastic J.K. Simmons) about it, who is also trapped in the loop. So, he’s still trapped!

The fact that this is screenwriter Andy Siara and director Max Barbakow’s first feature film is a bananas testament to the talent they possess and they are both people to watch going forward. That’s rather stunning to knock it out of the park in such grand fashion on the first go-around, especially with a concept that seems familiar at first (the loop), but has a delightful twist on it (Nyles is already in the loop when we meet him).

I mean, if you’re stuck in a loop, and you’ve tried everything to get out (at least, you think you have), wouldn’t you also do the same thing as Nyles? Is it so bad to just have fun and do whatever you want knowing the day will restart? Embrace the hedonism!

One of the best aspects of the film is that it crams a lot into its brisk 90-minute runtime without feeling too stuffy and without overstaying its welcome. For the rather high-concept it’s working with, it’s efficient and economical with getting the point across. A film critic said the film sort of sneaks up on you and “lands on you like a ton of bricks.” That’s a good way to put it. As I’m watching, I’m thinking, oh this is cute and fun, and then as it progresses, I’m fully bought in. Give me more of Nyles and Sarah; the chemistry is off the page.

Yeah, so I’m glad I finally watched this one before the year closed it, as it certainly is one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and it earned my high recommendation, if you have Hulu.

Trying to understand the why of life while eating a burrito is a freaking mood.

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