Hulu’s “Palm Springs” is a rom-com unlike any other. With dark themes, sharp humor and standout performances, the movie is relevant and quick-witted. While the premise is simple, the story unfolds with meaningful surprises that add depth to the themes and characters. While it may not withstand the test of time, “Palm Springs” is a perfect film for the summer of 2020.
The newest film from director Max Barbakow follows Sarah (Cristin Miliot, “How I Met Your Mother”) as she descends into the continuous time loop that Nyles (Andy Samberg, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) has been in since attending a Palm Springs wedding. The two are now forced to repeat the same day of the wedding over and over again.
Nihilistic Nyles has accepted that he may stay in the loop forever, as sleep and suicide just cause him to hit the “refresh” button on the day. However, Sarah’s arrival and new perspective challenges his idea that everything in his life is meaningless. Sarah is extremely determined to escape her newfound realm, in which she wakes up every day to a horrible mistake she has made. Meanwhile, Nyles has found comfort knowing what tomorrow will look like, especially with Sarah in the picture as the two develop feelings for eachother. They must decide whether to take control of their own destinies or live in the predictable, unchanging reality they have found themselves in. This heartfelt decision differs from the overall silliness of the film but is what drives the story home.
The Lonely Island’s Andy Samberg excels in his role as laidback Nyles, who was the first person to accidentally enter the time loop. The sharp, witty script works perfectly for his delivery. Cristin Miloti is hysterical and adds a wonderful element of over-dramatism to the dark comedy. Her expressive eyes greatly juxtapose Samberg’s cool demeanor. However, the standout performance of the movie is by J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”), who plays Roy, another wedding guest and third person within the time loop. Roy blames Nyles for his predicament and seeks to make as many of Nyles’ days as painful as possible. These three dynamic characters each add a different layer of humor and drama to the storyline.
The visuals of the movie scream “summer” making it a great film to watch now. Hawaiian shirts, endless desert landscapes and pool floaties help to transport the viewer to this summer oasis that is darkened by the mysterious circumstance the wedding guests find themselves in. While the film is not overwhelmingly creative with its cinematography or soundtrack, they do add lightness to the dreary situation.
However, the real appeal of “Palm Springs” comes in its accidental timeliness. The idea of waking up in a continuous time loop – with each new day looking like the one before – is all too common for many people during the COVID-19 crisis and quarantine. Barbakow’s accidental portrayal of this new reality hits close to home for many people, and causes viewers to confront where and when they find meaning in this new season of life. “Palm Springs” shows this kind of monotony in an over-dramatic, light-hearted way that provides an escape that mirrors current reality.
While the film fits in perfectly with 2020, it is clear that it does not have enough stamina to become a stand-out rom-com in the long run. There is not enough meat to the story or its characters for it to become an instant classic, but that doesn’t dismiss it from being enjoyable from beginning to end. While it may not be memorable, it is more fun and imaginative than a typical romantic comedy.
“Palm Springs” is a 2020 homerun that will leave viewers laughing for the rest of the summer. Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti bring the surprising story to life with wit and theatrics that are applause worthy. The film is definitely worth the deja-vu it ensues.
“Palm Springs” is available now to stream on Hulu.