Palm Springs, a must see rom-com streaming on Hulu
Don't let the graphic of two people floating down a lazy river with a couple drinks in hand fool you into thinking this is a lazy, laid back, date night comedy movie. It isn't. The writing is tight and so is the acting and production. While this movie is not for children, it does offer something for every adult. Violence: Check. Sex: Check. The Paranormal: Check. 80's Music: Check. Witty, fast moving dialogue story and action, all the while making you LOL? Check. It even has dinosaurs. I watched this movie not knowing anything about it beforehand, which in my opinion is the best way to approach a movie. I snuck into a theater once in 1989 to see a special preview of Die Hard, not knowing anything about that movie, and loved the experience. Palm Springs isn't an action movie, but it is exciting and fun to watch when knowing little about it ahead of time.
On a trip, at a destination wedding - in an isolated desert location at what we can assume is Palm Springs - Nyles (Andy Samberg) is accompanying his girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner ) to her friend Tala's wedding. Nyles says and does some quirky things in the opening scene – an uncomfortable sex scene – and we get the idea that their relationship will not last. Neither seems that into each other. Nyles is along-for-the-ride at this wedding. People refer to him as “Misty's boyfriend”, not bothering to learn his name. After this day he will be forgotten. But as the day progresses we see an odd confidence in Nyles. A confidence a person might get when they stop giving a fuck? Perhaps. He enjoys the pool first thing in the morning with beer in hand. He attends the formal wedding ceremony still wearing his bathing suit and Hawaiian shirt. Mid ceremony he cracks a beer and gets looks of disdain. He doesn't care.
Later that evening at the reception, Misty gives what she thinks is a uplifting speech about the bride and groom, and the guests are bored. The bride cuts her speech short at a long pause saying “Oh she's done”, and starts clapping. It seems rude and shows us the selfish types these people may be. Then the brides big sister and Maid of Honor, Sarah (Cristin Milioti), is asked to come up and give a speech. Sarah is woefully unprepared, not knowing she was expected to do this. She just topped off her wine glass at the bar and looks horrified as the microphone heads her way. Then Nyles steps in. He wrestles the microphone away from Misty and instead of a toast given by Sarah - which we assume would be a train wreck - we get one from a guy hardly anyone knows: Misty's boyfriend. He has an air of drunken confidence - the scene has a tone of impending disaster. But Nyles gives perhaps the best wedding speech of all time. He talks about big things – finding our way through darkness, being born lost and alone, then found. He ingratiates the bride for her many acts of kindness, including donating bone marrow to her baby brother – thereby saving his life. While making this bold speech Nyles stares into Sarah's eyes. She's still planted at her table, looking confused. Who is this man who took over the microphone? And why is he speaking directly to me with big ideas implying destiny?
Soon the dancing begins. Nyles attempts to impress Sarah with his moves and seems to always be in the right place at the right time: He snags a drink out of patrons hand without them noticing. He sticks a chair behind a man that was tipsy and ready to fall – avoiding an accident. Sarah approaches Nyles off to the side. She is curious about this mystery guy and what his motivations might be. They have a few things in common - they like to drink, have a sense of humor, with cynicism, and both would rather be somewhere else than at this wedding. Nyles asks Sarah if she would like to get out of there before her parents upcoming singing performance. She's hesitant but agrees questioning “won't your girlfriend Misty mind?” But Misty is cheating on Nyles as he shows her next. Spying through a window they see Misty hooking up with the best man. Nyles is fine with it (Sarah is more upset) as he doesn't care for Misty. He flirts with Sarah. She flirts back, and they end up out in the desert night together - to get it on. While working off his bathing suit (with boxers underneath), an arrow flies out the night sky and hits Nyles in the shoulder. Sarah starts screaming. Nyles starts running. He is being attacked, hunted, and he leaves a hysterical Sarah behind. Nyles is shot again with an arrow in the calve, but manages to elude his attacker by hiding behind a boulder. The two seem to know each other. His attacker proclaims something like, “I'll get you next time”, then proceeds to walk into the nearby cave. There's a whooshing sound. The threat gone. Nyles also heads toward the cave, dragging himself because of his injured leg. Sarah catches up with him, less hysterical but questioning what the fuck is going on. Nyles tells her to get back, don't come in here, and then he is also swooshed into the cave. Sarah take a few steps forward and follows him.
Turns out, Nyles is trapped in a time loop, reliving the same day over and over in classic Groundhog Day-esque fashion like Bill Murray's character from the 1993 film. Each day starts out the same, everything resets, and only Nyles' conscience moves forward in time, remembering what happened the day(s) before. Nyles has been reliving the same day a long time, but a variable has been introduced: the man hunting him interrupted his tryst with Sarah. She followed him into the cave where there is a time portal, and she is now also trapped, destined to repeat her sisters wedding day over and over. When Sarah wakes up in bed the next morning, it doesn't take her long to notice it's the start of the same day. She is panicked, tracks down Nyles drinking beers in the pool again, and demands to know, “what the fuck did you do to me?!” Nyles tells Sarah what he knows and reminds her he told her to stay back, to not follow him into the cave. The cave appears to contain a time portal and anyone that ventures inside is trapped in a time loop. "Yesterday is today, today is today, and tomorrow is today", he says. He seems at peace with this universe. Sarah is not. She wants to know more so she can find a way out.
The movie progress and Nyles and Sarah learn about each other and themselves. They experiment. They share experiences and grow. Falling to sleep leads back to the start of the day, as does death, as does re-entering the cave. They can never die, but they can still feel pain and it is something to be avoided, Nyles mentions. We learn that one night Nyles be-friended a wedding guest known as Roy (J.K. Simmons), a man trapped in a marriage raising young kids. After a drink and drug fueled evening which Roy proclaims “this is the best night of my life and I wish it could last forever”, Nyles makes the poor decision of leading Roy into the cave. Roy doesn't take this kindly - being trapped for all eternity in his unhappy life. He wakes up in Irving California each day, occasionally driving to Palm Springs to enact revenge on Nyles – hunting and torturing him as payback. Nyles vowed to never bring anyone into the cave again.
As cruel as it seems to be stuck in a day you would rather do anything but re-live, it seems a good way to grow as a human being. You have to deal with yourself and your problems. Nyles contended with learning his girlfriend was cheating on him again and again, and eventually got over it and moved on. Misty, who is the black sheep of her family, has to relive her baby sister's wedding she was loath to attend in the first place. Through time, Nyles and Sarah form a friendship. Angst turns to fun – they live as demi-Gods, joking and messing with the local towns people and wedding guests – enacting elaborate dance numbers and play skits. In one scene they pretend there is a bomb in the wedding cake and Nyles is a 'bomb guy' there to diffuse it and save everyone. Another time they drunkenly steal a small plane and try to learn the controls while mid flight – nose diving straight into the ground - they awaken fresh, starting a new day and looking for new adventures. It's an interesting existence. You can imagine there are worse places to be trapped and worse people to be trapped with. The sun is always shining. There is a sparkling pool and ample alcohol. They both seem healthy and young. Liver damage isn't a concern, nor obesity, and you never have to go to work or worry about money. There are no lasting consequences. There comes a comfort in knowing what will happen each day, and what your place is in the world, and you can steer events to your favor. Other people, real people, become more like background furniture in a play. Rearranging, yet resetting each morning to start anew. The downside is: it never ends. After many years of the monotony with no way out, a person would most likely go insane. Nyles has adjusted to this life though, and through their adventures he and Sarah develop feeling for each other, but Sarah's inner demons prevent her from being happy. She needs to escape, she realizes, and sets off on a plan to do so. Nyles makes the realization that whatever happens, he wants to be with Sarah. There is an opportunity for lasting happiness, or unending sadness, and both characters have to decide for themselves which path will lead them to salvation. PALM SPRINGS is a 2020 Hulu Originals Film directed by Max Barbakow and written by Andy Siara. The film is produced by Andy Samberg, Becky Sloviter, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Dylan Sellers, and Chris Parker, and Gabby Revilla Lugo serves as executive producer. The film is produced by Limelight and Lonely Island Classics with Neon serving as the theatrical distributor. Running time 1:30 minutes, Rated R for sexual content, language, drug use and violence.
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