Rated R for sexual content, language throughout, drug use, and some violence
1 hour 30 minutes Â· Streaming on Hulu starting July 10
Months of quarantine have a way of distorting oneâ€™s perception of time. With the removal of structured tasks like work and social outings, the â€śBlursdayâ€ť phenomenon can make us feel that weâ€™re living the same day over and over again with no end in sight.
Given that so many of us can now relate to this purgatorial condition, it perhaps couldnâ€™t be a better time for a time loop comedy like Palm Springs to come along and help us make sense of and maybe even make light of our â€śquarantine blues.â€ť When Neon and Hulu struck a $17.5 million deal for the film at Sundance earlier this year, thereâ€™s no way they could have realized how apropos it would be upon its release.
Andy Samberg stars as Nyles, a seemingly carefree slacker whose loud Hawaiian shirt shouts â€śI donâ€™t careâ€ť but disaffected disposition points to something a bit darker. â€śToday, yesterday, tomorrow â€” itâ€™s all the same,â€ť he murmurs blithely from a pizza-shaped pool float the morning of a Palm Springs wedding. It turns out, his words are more literal than it sounds, as Nyles has actually relived this exact day more times than he can remember. The twist on the Groundhog Day conceit comes in the form of maid of honor Sarah (Cristin Milioti), who becomes stuck in the perpetual time loop with Nyles after an unforeseen incident binds their fates. With nothing but time on their hands, the two work together to absolve themselves from their temporal dilemma.
Director Max Barbakow and screenwriter Andy Siara know theyâ€™re in familiar territory here. But one of the many joys of watching Palm Springs is seeing how fresh a perspective the pair can graft onto this formula. By making a couple go through the broken record routine as opposed to one person alone, the film investigates the prospects of a romantic relationship in a time warp that continually resets. The story serves as a multi-faceted metaphor for monogamy, making literal the sentiment that two people can live forever in their own shared reality apart from the rest of the clueless world. In this way, the film reminded me often of all-time great Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in the way it explores how time interacts with romance in unexpectedly complicated ways.
While the performances in Palm Springs might not quite be up to the caliber of Jim Carreyâ€™s and Kate Winsletâ€™s in Spotless Mind, theyâ€™re not as far off as one may anticipate. Samberg starts off in familiar goofball territory, but it doesnâ€™t take long before he adds layers of anxiety and grief to really sell the experience of a man caught up in his distressing scenario. Milioti is even better as a sardonic match for Sambergâ€™s wise-cracking Nyles as she slowly unpacks the stages of existential dread in the funniest way possible.
Elsewhere, the always fantastic J.K. Simmons turns in another excellent supporting performance as a fellow wedding guest who adds even more wisdom and emotional intelligence to an uncommonly perceptive movie.
â€śUncommonly perceptiveâ€ť is not a descriptor I would have necessarily expected to apply to a product of The Lonely Island, the comedy trio Samberg created with two fellow SNL alums Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. The minds behind frivolous cult comedies like Hot Rod and MacGruber have seemingly matured enough to craft something this simultaneously thoughtful and hilarious. If youâ€™re familiar with the trioâ€™s brand of humor and come into the film with the understanding of how much pranking and mischief two people could get up to in this sci-fi synopsis, then you may have a picture of just how entertaining the film ultimately becomes.
Palm Springs is a melancholy and mordantly funny meditation on what it means to grow together with someone in a world that seems doomed to repeat its past failures.
Also streaming this weekend
Available on Apple+ is Greyhound, a war movie starring Tom Hanks and Stephen Graham about an inexperienced U.S. Navy captain whose Allied convoy is being pursued by a fleet of Nazi U-boats.
Available on demand is First Cow, an indie drama from writer/director Kelly Reichardt starring John Magaro and Toby Jones about a cook who travels with fur trappers to 19th century Oregon.
Available on Netflix is The Old Guard, a superhero film starring Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne about a group of centuries-old immortal mercenaries who are suddenly exposed and must fight to keep their identity a secret.