Back in January, the new movie Palm Springs broke a record for the highest sale at the Sundance Film Festival — by exactly 69 cents.
We should have seen that as an omen.
The movie began streaming on Hulu this past Friday, July 10th, and in less than a week, it has an 84% on MetaCritic and a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Those are some impressively high accolades for any movie, but especially for a RomCom by a first-time director starring Andy Samberg. But, in my humble opinion, the film deserves it.
The elevator pitch for Palm Springs is essentially Groundhog's Day meets Hot Tub Time Machine meets Wedding Crashers — again, not the type of film you'd expect to garner such critical acclaim. Andy Samberg's character, Nyles, has been trapped in a time loop at a wedding where he doesn't know anyone except his girlfriend, who's in the wedding party, and also cheating on him. He is stuck at the resort, living the day over and over and over and over again, eventually resigning himself to the situation and trying to have some fun before the loop resets. When he tries to hook up with Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the older sister of the bride, he accidentally brings her into the time loop as well. And we soon learn that there are other wedding guests whose fates are now locked into this same endless repeating pattern. (Spoiler: one is JK Simmons, delightful as ever.)
Palm Springs does the expected job of working through all the humor of time travel and repetition; of course, the timeliness of its release during our collective societal quarantine probably helps to make that monotony feel even relatable. But it also takes a few cues from Russian Doll, the critically-acclaimed 2019 Netflix series starring Natasha Lyonne. It's certainly not as dark as Russian Doll, but it does go to some darker places, using the cyclical pressure to explore trauma and regret.
The movie is certainly not striving to break the mold by introducing some deep, meaningful artistry to the time travel rom-com genre; but it offers just enough of everything to create a satisfying and utterly charming experience. My wife and I were looking for something dumb to put on in the background, and both ended up turning to each other at different points in the film and saying "This is so much better than it has any right to be." (Like any good time travel film, the ending also leaves a lot of room for discussion and more questions around the mechanics of the world.) If you're looking for a good escape from the endless time loop of your own life right now, I highly recommend it.
Palm Springs on Hulu