Andy Samberg? The producing team that is the Lonely Island? A supporting role from J.K. Simmons? Hulu’s newest feature Palm Springs has it all.
Premiering on the latest service to put forth original feature films, Palm Springs is the most fitting escape from quarantined reality yet. The film borrows the newly popularized sub-genre of getting trapped in a time loop. Like Groundhog Day, Russian Doll, and several other films and series before them, Palm Springs lends its structure to this plot device.
What sets the film apart is its playful use of the time loop. Unbeknownst to the viewer and Samberg’s peers within the film, Samberg’s character, Nyles, has been trapped in the time loop for a long, indeterminate amount of time. Beginning his day is a one-sided morning sexcapade with his vapid girlfriend Misty. What follows is a drunken day of poolside lounging and Tala Anne Wilder’s wedding. A friend of Misty’s, Tala Anne is a mere device used to reveal the film’s secret weapon, her sister Sarah Wilder.
On what viewers think is the first ever night of this wedding, Nyles knowingly piques the interest of Sarah. They venture out to the desert together to hook up, when Nyles is chased by an unknown character (J.K. Simmons). To escape, Nyles crawls into an ominously lit cave. Sarah, astonished by the violence and outlandish nature of the night’s events follows to help Nyles, trapping herself in the time loop.
The remainder of the film depicts Sarah grappling with her new reality, expectedly falling for Nyles, and brainstorming ways to escape. The middle portion of the film is dedicated to with montages, stages of euphoric nihilism from the characters, and overly intoxicated adventures. Is a trip Palm Springs really complete without doing mushrooms?
Palm Springs succeeds through its convincing lead duo.
Neither takes themself or the events of the film all that seriously, making it that much better of a ride. Cristin Millioti proves her subtle ability to draw empathy from the viewer, with her sprinkled moments of dramatic compulsion adding the necessary edge to an otherwise pure comedy. Samberg brings his lax persona to the table aptly, showing audiences once again his innate ability to draw laughs with the softest expressions.
Towards its later moments, Palm Springs approaches absurdity. It never loses sight of its tone, planting its feet firmly in the heightened reality inhabited by the duo processing the daily repetition of events. The film should inspire those of its kind in the comedy genre today, expressing the recipe for a successful film lays in casting the right people and telling the right version of a story, no matter its familiarity.
Palm Springs is a standout for its great performances, excellent maintenance of tone, and a script just fresh enough to standout from a genre that has nearly exhausted recent projects. It’s a welcome return to form for Sandberg, whose noticeable absence from comedies such as these seriously missed. It beckons the desire for more to come for he and his Lonely Island crew. In the meantime, Palm Springs is a much needed treat.