Every perfect rom-com should contain at least one dance scene with disco music. Palm Springs contains two.
Palm Springs, a rom-com you should check out immediately on Hulu, also hinges on a sci-fi concept that’s not complete gibberish. The film takes place at a wedding where the two main characters are stuck in a time warp. They repeat the same wedding day – with its deluded parents, out of control best friends and grannies saying judgmental things – over and over again.
But Palm Springs isn’t a wedding film. It’s definitely not Groundhog Day 2.0. It is a subversive Rom-com where two drifting strangers meet at their lowest points. Through a meaningful human connection (and time folding in on itself) they learn about how to move forward and function in life. In other words, Palm Springs is a existential crisis wedding film.
Palm Springs stars Andy Samberg as Nyles, a contradictorily energetic and dejected man whose shallow girlfriend is terrible at giving wedding speeches. As Nyles glides through the festivities, he makes surprising sidesteps – we don’t get to know everything about his character in an efficient introductory scene. Across Palm Springs’ incredible running time of 90 minutes (and not a minute more), Nyles reveals unexpectedly dark tidbits.
“We kind of have no choice but to live,” he says at one point. “You best learn how to endure existence.”
Enter Cristin Miliotis Sarah. All we know is that Sarah is the bride’s screwed up sister (the bride is played by Camila Mendes!). Sarah sips a glass of red wine while Nyles’ girlfriend gives a horrible wedding speech. Sarah is our lens for how the time warp works, and her efforts to escape the endless orange desert drives the story.
Samberg and Milioti are comedic geniuses who are a perfect match – Samberg is Miliotis Daria’s golden retriever. Her disco dance routine is a highlight. The diverse genres and existential high jinks work thanks in part to this wonderfully wacky and irreverent couple.
The jokes are compact like those in a tightly scripted sitcom. The pacing never lets up, and the mystery of the time warp, the characters’ pasts and an aggressive wedding guest, played by JK Simmons, all come together with seeming ease.
Still, this time warp movie might have you settling with a slowly tightening knot of fear in your stomach. How can it encapsulate the romance and time warp aspects on an emotionally and logically satisfying level? Will the sci-fi concept inevitably become a wishy-washy fantasy dusted with a sprinkling of fairy dust?
Wisely, Samberg — also a producer — and creative team Andy Siara and Max Barbakow tested early versions of Palm Springs until they received repeated thumbs-up approval. They made sure the sci-fi concept tracks were enough to please the most cynical viewer.
Palm Springs even creates its own classic rom-com ending scene, in which one character after another races before departing for good. It grabs the right emotional chords and pulls them hard to the tune of a happy-sad banger by Kate Bush (Cloudbusting – not)
When you’ve got Hulu and need another hit sci-fi afterward, Palm Springs View. It’s a very different kind of sci-fi film, but just as impressive. It’s Hulu’s second best sci-fi gem.