Palm Springs (R) ★★★½

Andy Samberg and Christin Milioti star in “Palm Springs.” Photo Credit: Hulu.

Palm Springs: A Perfect Flick for Dealing with COVID19 Monotony

Sometimes a movie comes along that aligns with the times perfectly. A few months ago, The Atlantic published an article on how Groundhog Day, a timeless comedy where every day is the same, is the perfect movie for COVID, and it appeared on a number of COVID movie lists from other publications. With movie productions ground to a halt, it would be nearly impossible to try and quickly produce a film that captures the spirit of Groundhog Day. Fortunately, for Neon Pictures, they shot the perfect movie for these bizarre times a year ago, Palm Springs. Much like Groundhog Day, Palm Springs is about being stuck in time, peppered with comedic twists while playing with deeper themes, but also stands on its own story well.

The indie rom-com begins with Nyles played by Andy Samberg (Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, 2018) being awakened by his shallow girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner, Brightburn, 2019) in a Palm Springs hotel room. They are in town for Misty’s friend’s nuptials, but Nyles appears to be depressed and very disinterested in the wedding festivities. He proceeds to drink beer all day and shows up to the wedding dressed like he just disembarked a plane from Hawaii, while all of the other guests are dressed in normal, formal wedding attire. During the reception, Misty gives an awkward speech and attempts to turn the microphone over to the bride’s sister Sarah (Cristin Milioti, Breakable You, 2017), who is entirely unprepared for the takeover. At that moment, in steps Nyles who is still fully decked out in his Hawaiian clothes and much to the surprise of all the guests, delivers a poignant wedding toast that seems somewhat related to the bride (Camila Mendes, Coyote Lake, 2019) and the groom, but is seemingly directed to Sarah.

Andy Samberg and Christin Milioti star in “Palm Springs.” Photo Credit: Hulu.

As the night progresses, Nyles seems to have some sort of precognitive abilities as he seems to know what everyone is going to do before it actually happens. He strikes up a flirtatious conversation with Sarah and they go for a romantic walk in the desert. One thing leads to another and while in the heat of passion, Nyles is struck by an arrow in the back of his shoulder by a heavily camouflaged man named Roy (J.K. Simmons, 21 Bridges, 2019) who seems hellbent on hunting down Nyles. Nyles runs away and crawls into a mysterious cave, but not before Sarah rushes in after him to try and help. Suddenly, the opening scene of the movie repeats and while it might appear to just be a case of déjà vu, it becomes very clear that Nyles is reliving the same day over and over. However, in an unexpected twist, Sarah has joined him in having to relive the same day too. Sarah now understands why Nyles was acting so strange at the wedding as his behavior (or misbehavior) does not matter as he is doomed to relive the same day no matter what he does. Nyles teaches Sarah the ropes from his extensive experience and the two are forced to figure out how to deal with a monotonous life together.

Andy Samberg has proven himself to be a very amusing actor (Saturday Night Live, 2005-2018; Brooklynn Nine-Nine, 2013-2021), but his energy and style of humor do not always jive well with more traditional comedies. Fortunately, this script gave Samberg the perfect outlet for some of his unconventional antics. The storyline is well thought out with witty montages, particularly from Samberg, Hagner and Simmons. Milioti has solid comedic chemistry with Samberg and does a great job of showing audiences the rollercoaster of emotions one would feel in this time loop, especially in contrast with Nyles, whose pessimistic cynicism is the result of his longtime partner, déjà vu.

Tyler Hoechlin and Tongayi Chirisa star in “Palm Springs”. Photo Credit: Hulu.

Max Barbakow, who makes his directorial debut with Palm Springs, is a filmmaker to keep an eye on, as he executes on a clever script and getting high-level talent from his performers. Palm Springs is a perfect comedic escape to take down in only 90 minutes. The convenience of it streaming on Hulu also makes it easy to consume and perfect for the current times.

Bottom Line: During a summer that has been extremely monotonous for most, this indie rom-com will hit the spot, especially for those starving for a new movie that can actually provide some laughs.

Credits: Written by Andy Siara; Directed by Max Barbakow

Starring: Andy Samberg (Nyles), Christin Milioti (Sarah Wilder), J.K. Simmons (Roy), Camila Mendes (Tala Wilder), Tyler Hoechlin (Abraham Schlieffen), Misty (Meredith Hagner), Peter Gallagher (Howard Wilder)

Studio: Neon Pictures

Running Time: 90 minutes

Jessica DeLong © July 15, 2020