‘Palm Springs’ Is Not Your Average Rom-Com – Review
There’s been a lot of word-of-mouth hype going around online for Palm Springs. Besides achieving the honor of being the most expensive acquisition to come out of the Sundance Film Festival’s history – costing Hulu and NEON a whopping $17-million – it also received high praise from the festival’s audience. It’s not too surprising since The Lonely Island, who put out one of the best underrated comedies of the last decade in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, are some of the producers on the project.
The concept of time-loop films can be mundane, but in Palm Springs, it’s refreshed by the way it’s presented and that’s a credit to everyone involved in this film. Many pieces of the puzzle had to perfectly align to get this film just right, such as seamlessly balancing the tone between the existential dread and humor to create a romantic comedy that is something special.
Andy Samberg is our leading man, playing Nyles, a carefree commitment-phobe stuck in an endless loop of a friend’s wedding. He connects with Sarah, played by Cristin Milioti, a self-proclaimed alcoholic nympho and sister of the bride. As she gets caught in the same time-loop, they ride through this existence together and a fondness grows between the pair.
Both actors lend some of the best performances of their careers to create electric chemistry with their complementary comedic timing and ability to bring authenticity to the character’s relationship to each other. Highlighting their flaws, it grounds the larger scale of the time-loop subgenre and embraces genuine charm.
We fall in love with the relationship that blooms between Nyles and Sarah, because they’re relatable. Samberg, whose breakout was SNL, is best known for his comedic roles. We’ve seen him bring out some dramatic acting in 2012’s Celeste and Jesse Forever, but this role is a career highlight for him of any genre.
Milioti shines in the darker moments of this film, with her character being the outsider of her family. Plagued with emotional baggage, self-doubt, and hate, the way she is able to navigate through humor and self-deprecation is something to be marveled at. With Samberg and Milioti leading the film, we all assume it’ll be funny, and it genuinely is. But, what surprised me most was how packed it was with existential dread and questioning. It’s uncanny how timely it is.
At the heart of Palm Springs, it focuses on living in the moment, enjoying your surroundings and the love you’re receiving. Using a Groundhog Day formula, it reminds the audience to cherish the time that they’re given.
While we’re stuck in quarantine for the foreseeable future, it’s not an unpleasant message in the slightest. The tender way this is approached is what makes Palm Springs completely deserving of the hype that came out of Sundance. The film is brilliantly paced, with a well-developed story that has all of the supporting characters (standouts played by J.K. Simmons and Tyler Hoechlin) fully fleshed out. You may have seen this trope before, but the angle it is approached creates a film that is worthwhile.
Palm Springs is, undoubtedly, one of the best romantic comedies we’ve seen in years because it breaks down the way we engage with films of the genre. The reason some consider rom-coms played-out is because nothing has ever come along that revitalizes it with this kind of energy. The writing is intelligent, playing off the normal cliches that we typically see in a very self aware way. We know the way this film will end, but how enthralling and entertaining the journey is compensates for all of that. This premise is bold, and it succeeds in every avenue it attempts with a special flair.
The team up of first-time director Mark Barbakow, writer Andy Siara, and The Lonely Island makes for the romantic comedy you’ve been looking for. A genuinely hilarious, heartfelt testament to our existence that’s elevated by a science-fiction twist to the plot.
Palm Springs is now available on Hulu.