Palm Springs (2020) Jul 12, 2020 15:37:01 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jul 12, 2020 15:37:01 GMT -5
Palm Springs (2020)
Directed by: Max Barbakow
Directed by: Max Barbakow
Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg.
On one hand, it's unfortunate that Max Barbakow's Palm Springs got relegated to streaming after the Coronavirus commenced its stranglehold on the entire globe. The film landed the biggest deal in the history of Sundance when Neon and Hulu shelled out $17.5 million for the acquisition. On another, perhaps it would've suffered the same ho-hum fate in terms of box office dollars as other big-money pickups such as Late Night and Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation. Maybe the blessing in disguise is the film is accessible with a Hulu subscription, and truth be told, if you don't have Hulu, this one is worth the free trial, even if you have to use a second email at this point.
Palm Springs begins with Andy Samberg's character Nyles waking up on the morning of his friend's wedding to his girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner) getting ready. After one of the most uncomfortable "sex scenes" in recent memory, Nyles apathetically goes about the day, despite being in a tropical paradise ostensibly boasting copious libations. His crowning moment of the day is bailing out the drunken maid of honor/family pariah, Sarah (Cristin Milioti), by giving a long, ponderous speech. Sarah is appreciative of the gesture, and the two venture out to the desert where they are set to have sex. Yet again, however, Nyles' rendezvous is interrupted, but this time by an archer (J. K. Simmons) who shoots Nyles in the back with an arrow. He crawls over to a nearby cave with Sarah following against his orders.
It's then Sarah realizes that she, like Nyles, is stuck in a time-loop, condemned to repeating the same day over and over again as if it never took place. Suicide results in waking up in the same bed on the morning of the wedding. Sarah is beside herself at this fact, but Nyles is blasé at this point. He's lived through the same day so frequently he honestly can't even remember what the hell he did for a living, as memory fog is apparently a real thing amidst a time-loop. The two share several romantic moments and giddily enjoy crashing or soiling the wedding in various ways knowing the next morning will bring no meaningful consequences, until Sarah eventually has enough and begins to quantify whether or not there is a path towards seeing tomorrow.
Palm Springs isn't your conventional Groundhog Day knockoff. Don't let your cynicism convince you otherwise. Co-writer Barkabow and Andy Siara find numerous ways to invite themes of relationships and existentialism into the familiar formula. For one, just optioning two people for the nerve-wracking conceit of having to relive the same day seemingly for eternity is novel, especially at two separate periods in "time." Nyles' apathy towards each passing day is a subtle but welcomed change of pace from someone who has given up trying to find a way out. Furthermore, having Sarah cycle from initial shock, to trial and error, to romance, to exhausting all options makes for the kind of dramatic urgency susceptible to be displaced from a story where it could otherwise be missing.
Though elevated by strong, if a touch too busy, writing, of course the film greatly benefits from having two strong performers at the center. This is Samberg's finest hour, even if he proved magnetic in both Hot Rod and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, let alone in The Lonely Island, for he shows a seldom-seen subdued side, mixed with burgeoning nihilism (the more I think of it, if you're Nyles, how could you not at this point?) Cristin Milioti — best known as "Mother" from How I Met Your Mother — is an amalgam of apathy and spunk despite never veering too far into sociopathic territory. Throw in J. K. Simmons in a wacky but frequently amusing supporting character I dare not spoil, and you have a strong triad to match the comic wit on display.
Apropos of nothing, and something that most probably will pay little mind, but the cinematography is notably attractive; the work of Quyen Tran (The Little Hours). Tran accentuates the aqua pool-water and coastal California colors, making an attractive presentation. The idyllic island-esque paradise screams Jimmy Buffett, when in reality, both Nyles and Sandy are directionless cynics that would probably nod in affirmation if they listened ever-so-closely to Steely Dan. That contrast is the ribbon on an already substantial present.
Palm Springs could very well be the most original American comedy since Colossal with its subversion of the time-loop concept and its whip-smart attitude. In a time when we feel like every day is bleeding into the next with little difference, seeing the formula evolve to include themes of love and existentialism (done well too) is inspiring, coupled with some career-best-level performances.
NOTE: Palm Springs is now streaming on Hulu.
NOTE II: Check out my review of Palm Springs on my web-show Sleepless with Steve. Catch the show Wednesday evenings at 8pm CST at twitch.tv/sleeplesswithsteve!
Starring: Andy Samberg, Cristin Millioti, J. K. Simmons, and Peter Gallagher. Directed by: Max Barbakow.