Over the weekend and going into this week, Palm Springs, the new Lonely Island film has quickly become one of the most exciting, fun and thought provoking quarantine releases to date. If you haven’t heard about it yet, I suggest you get yourself out of the loop you’ve been living in to press play on this one. You could say it’s a contemporary modernization of the film ‘Groundhog Day’; a film that I reviewed as a classic just about a month into the global pandemic. Without a doubt both of these films share similar themes, but Palm Springs seems to hold more weight than what that “go-to” buzz statement acknowledges.
To me, as a long time Lonely Island fan (I was cracking up at their YouTube sketches before they even made their way to SNL as writers and cast), the film is a testament to their ever-growing careers and pure comedic understanding. The stories they want to tell feel matured in this installment from the comedy gang, while they can always fall back on the ridiculous and absurd aspects of their other projects (i.e. the recent Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience on Netflix).
Andy, Jorma and Akiva (Founding members of the Lonely Island and producers on the project) premiered this film at Sundance and ended up selling it to Hulu for a record amount of 17ish million dollars. Without a doubt in my mind this purchase was well worth it for the combatant streaming giant. Hulu has been doing great work by my standards in releasing their own slate of Hulu Original films in 2020, especially in the comedy realm.
At a tight 90 minutes, Palm Springs is a very easy watch that is guaranteed to engage you as the viewer with both belly filling laughs and polarizing emotion. However, the blatant crudeness and randomness to the gang’s humor is not lost on this film. It takes a lot of me to not just go through the film bit-by-bit, joke-by-joke, because I am such a huge fan of the work. So I’ve tried to sum it up the best I can.
The day is November 9th, and we are first introduced to Nyles (Andy Samberg); boyfriend to a bridesmaid in a wedding. He’s moving to the beat of his own drum, proven by his shorts and Hawaiian shirt attire amongst formal fits. He’s almost too comfortable in his own skin, and takes part in hijinks that result in him hooking up with the maid of honor, Sarah (Cristin Milioti).
Without spoiling much, one thing leads to another, a warp in space-time opens up in a cave, and in complete Lonely Island fashion it is revealed that Nyles has been trapped in an infinite time loop. Subsequently, Sarah finds herself now trapped in it as well, forever destined to live out November 9th, the day of the wedding for all of eternity. Much like ‘Groundhog Day’ there is no breaking the loop, not even death can save them. They wake up in the same beds of misfortune and regret every day, November 9th.
You might be thinking, wtf?? We’ve seen this all before. I beg to differ… though aspects of the “infinite time loop” trope are similar, providing us with comedic death sequences and pure moments of “giving zero f***s”, there are a few fundamental differences that make this scenario unique. Mainly, there is room for more than one person in this time loop. Unlike Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, Nyles isn’t the only one who can fall victim to this eternity. Having been alone on this infinite journey back to the same day and place, over and over, Nyles has accidentally accumulated other fellow wedding goers to be doomed with him. How these people handle the reality of their situation is up to their own discretion. In all cases, how they handle it proves to be the life force of the comedic and romantic engines of the film.
In this infinite space, Nyles and Sarah grow fond of each other, as each day seems to peel back the onion even more on their lives, regrets, hopes and dreams. Things get dangerous and even trippier along the plane of November 9thin Palm Springs, giving the viewer a new taste in the world of infinite time loops. What got Bill Murray out of his situation back in the 90s isn’t even close to what needs to be done in this film. However, actualizing love, caring for others and finding peace with yourself and your surroundings are absolutely lessons that are learned here.
Verdict 4.5 out of 5
I was incredibly impressed with the acting from everyone in this film. A hidden gem, J.K. Simmons absolutely kills in a supporting role who does less than support our main character’s plights.
I got the sense there was a universal truth existing within almost all the main characters that the audience could grab a hold to. The wacky gags and surreal moments are defined against the saddening truths behind the characters and the wedding itself. In my mind, this is new found territory for the Lonely Island crew. There is an element of emotional strain that grounds this absolute trip of a film.
Written by Andy Siara, and directed by Max Barbakow, in ways that are even more appreciated and essential to story on a second viewing, this film is deeply layered and one hell of a watch. Palm Springs is now available on Hulu from now until the end of time itself.