Palm Springs
Director: Max Barbakow
Writers: Andy Siara
Actors: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, Peter Gallagher, J.K. Simmons
Release Date: July 10, 2020

During life of quarantine and self-isolation, the idea of reliving the same day back-to-back (to-back-to-back…etc) is a prevailing feeling. Starting out the same window, going through the exact same routine and even walking the same routes for fresh air whenever possible. Palm Springs (2020) is the latest rendition of this “Groundhog Day” repetition concept. Exclusively released to Hulu, Max Barbakow’s romantic comedy stares Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti as two low self-esteemed personalities who are forced to relive the same 24 hours, during which they learn and experience lessons and learning moments along the way.

Nyles (Andy Sandberg) is stuck at a wedding in Palm Springs where he meets Sarah (Cristin Milioti). Sarah is the maid of honor and an outcast within her own family, and with Nyles’ date being less than ideal, the two become drawn to one another. However it is learned that Nyles has been living the same wedding day for an extended period of time and Sarah is unwillingly dragged into the same time loop when she follows him into a colorful void of repetition. The two then embrace on a journey of self-discovery, vulnerability and personal awakening with the same chaotic background environment endlessly occurring.

Palm Springs is carried by Nyles and Sarah’s romantic relationship and fantastic chemistry. Samberg is made for this role as an aloof loner who is open to the idea of being along forever and laughing at his own entertainment. His introverted self is thrown for a loop when Sarah is flung into his loop. Milioti is the best actor in Palm Springs with her wonderful blend of self-loathing and self-confidence. Sarah has committed a terrible act and she has to wake up to it every morning; surely a feeling that no person would like. Yet when she is able to escape from her own guilt, Sarah is an extroverted accelerant of fun. Looking back at Palm Springs, Milioti is the part worth revisiting.

Of the movies I have seen released in 2020, Cristin Milioti’s performance ranks among the best I have seen. It sits along with is Allison Janney in Bad Education, Elizabeth Moss in The Invisible Man, and Sophie Lowe from Blow The Man Down.

In terms of the funniest scenes, the hardest laugh may come when Sarah discovers that something is amiss on her sister’s wedding day. She is fooling around with Nyles on a rock when all of a sudden, he is shot in the back by an arrow. It comes out of nowhere. Like a rewind the movie to make sure it wasn’t a hallucination happening. Sarah’s reaction is priceless and 100% accurate. Milioti is remarkably personable in the role of unknowing audience avatar. This scene hooks the viewer to her like an anchor, making everyone root for her as she begins drowning in the repetition.

Credit needs to be given to writer Andy Siara and director Max Barbakow. In their first feature film attempt, they combine to shed light on marriage and how romantic a friendship could be. Nyles and Sarah are having a relationship even if they don’t define it for a while. They are reliving the same routine every day and not minding a bit because they are creating little adventures for one another and enjoying each other’s company. They know what the next day is going to bring, just like how in marriage you tend to know what the routine of every day is, but that doesn’t stop or deter the pair. The shots of Nyles and Sarah waking up with smiles on their faces is something a person should strive to have; not a “oh well another day” mentality, but a “let’s embrace the happiness today” mindset.

With romantic notions wound throughout and the various types of comedy (such as dick tattoos, dramatic reenactments, and horrendous embarrassments), one wouldn’t expect Palm Springs to leave so many unanswerable questions.

  • How long was Nyles in the loop before Sarah got sucked in?
  • Where there any others besides Sarah, Nyles and Roy (JK Simmons) stuck in the repetition?
  • How long was Sarah’s escapade of quantum physics learning?
  • What happened to the goat that Sarah tested?
  • Why are there dinosaurs?

Palm Springs doesn’t answer for the audience. It leaves space for ambiguity. It leaves space for interpretation. It is a romantic comedy but it doesn’t tie all the knots at the end because of its non-overbearing science fiction elements. Because of the chemistry of Samberg and Milioti the audience doesn’t to know why the earthquake happened, or how long Nyles and Sarah were separated following their argument. Love it when a grey mist of smart uncertainty fogs overtakes a could-be simple story.

Palm Springs is a breezy watch and worthy of praise for its ingenuity. It’s obvious that Hulu and Neon thought say at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival when the purchased the movie’s world rights with a record $17,500,000.69. It put it 69 cents past The Birth of a Nation (2016) which was purchased by Fox Searchlight for the record. The investment seems to have paid dividends with Hulu announcing that the film broke the streaming platform’s opening weekend record. Palm Springs popularity was also evident on social media with it trending nationally despite a strong promotional push.

Palm Springs is the fourth feature film originally produced by Hulu. Personally I have yet to see Wounds (2019) and Big Time Adolescence (2020), but I was a fan of Little Monsters (2019) giving it a Stanko Rating of a “B”.

STANKO RATING: B (3.0/5 Stars)

“Palm Springs” IMDB
“Palm Springs” Rotten Tomatoes

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