“Palm Springs is surprisingly heartfelt and even dark at times, with the underlying theme of existentialism hitting a little too close to home.”
“Today, tomorrow, it’s all the same.” The song Forever and Ever by Demis Roussos sets the scene of Max Barbakow’s incredible directorial debut, the lyrics of which are supposed to be romantic, but in this case, they rather hint at the ensuing twist in this genuinely hilarious spin on the popular time-loop film genre that premiered earlier this year at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and went on to receive critical acclaim. Palm Springs begs the very timely question: if everything’s always the same, does anything really matter?
This film stars Andy Samberg as the nihilistic Nyles, an uninterested plus-one to his girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner) at a Palm Springs wedding that starts off as a seemingly normal day. When Nyles saves the intoxicated maid of honor, Sarah, (Cristin Milioti), from having to give a speech at the reception, the two form a bond over an instant attraction towards one another, all while swapping witty banter. Their night is cut short by an unexpected turn of events that result in the unlikely pair finding themselves stuck in a never-ending loop, forced to relive the day of the wedding over and over again.
This lighthearted film is wonderful to watch and it is just ridiculous enough for it to all work. It is by no means a “perfect” film, and its basic concept may be a deterrent to some exhausted movie-goers, as characters getting stuck reliving the same day has obviously been done ad nauseam on television and film, which may lead people to question whether or not this is something worth seeing. Yet, with Palm Springs, there is something that feels quite special. Not only are there unexpected twists, but that certain something that really makes it feel fresh is most definitely the great lead performances from Samberg and Milioti. The casting choices were spot on; Samberg is expectedly terrific in the way he brings humor and charm to Nyles’ character, but for much needed emphasis: Cristin freaking Milioti, just absolutely rules as Sarah, and is a necessary counterpart to breathe life into Nyles’ glass-half-empty outlook.
The friendship and inevitable romance between the two are completely believable, despite their characters being thrown into an unbelievable situation; what starts off as two people being forced together, turns into a them waking up every morning excited for the adventures the rest of the day holds because now they have each other and zero responsibilities. Plus, Samberg and Milioti just appear like they are having so much fun, especially during the obligatory montage scene, which in turn makes the audience feel the same way. The pair are able to riff off one another with ease, and this camaraderie between the two is what makes the comedic scenes so humorous. Though, what was unexpected is just how endearing their relationship is. While Milioti and Samberg are clearly able to make the audience laugh aloud with their repartee, they also add nuance to their characters in the quieter moments without it ever feeling trite, which is something that romantic comedies can suffer from. It is truly a joy to witness the chemistry between Samberg and Milioti on-screen.
Bathed in the harsh desert sunlight, accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack, Palm Springs is surprisingly heartfelt and even dark at times, with the underlying theme of existentialism hitting a little too close to home. It proves that despite being infinitely stuck in the same routine, everything you do still matters, a message that seems profound in these current times. This is a feel-good film that, in the end, is just a really, really fun time. Emphatic period.
Dir: Max Barbakow
Prod: Andy Samberg, Becky Sloviter, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Dylan Sellers, and Chris Parker, and Gabby Revilla Lugo
Cast: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons
Release date: July 10, 2020 (USA)
Available on: Hulu