Palm Springs review: Feeling infinite

Palm Springs -- When carefree Nyles (Andy Samberg) and reluctant maid of honor Sarah (Cristin Milioti) have a chance encounter at a Palm Springs wedding, things get complicated when they find themselves unable to escape the venue, themselves, or each other. Nyles (Andy Samberg), shown. (Photo by: Christopher Willard/Hulu)
Palm Springs -- When carefree Nyles (Andy Samberg) and reluctant maid of honor Sarah (Cristin Milioti) have a chance encounter at a Palm Springs wedding, things get complicated when they find themselves unable to escape the venue, themselves, or each other. Nyles (Andy Samberg), shown. (Photo by: Christopher Willard/Hulu) /

Palm Springs adds a fresh twist to the time-loop formula and is a reinvigorating take on romantic comedy tropes

There’s a rather infamous video out there of me, perhaps slightly intoxicated, declaring “nothing matters” directly towards the camera in a melodramatic fashion. It’s a silly video, yet there’s probably some uncomfortable truth as to why I stated nothing matters that I’d rather not address. I have no real answers as to why, in that specific moment, I chose to exhibit a sudden burst of apathy. Palm Springs is like if that nihilistic energy came to life.

The only difference is that the movie, unlike my inebriated, not-actually-that-funny self, is actually quite delightful. It’s maybe, aside from some obscure picks that film dorks will gleefully offer up, the best movie of 2020 so far. That might sound like hollow praise given there have been, like, three major releases this year, which I guess it sort of is.

Let’s try this, instead: Palm Springs is the kind of movie that fulfills the most basic desire of wanting to simply be entertained, but with enough layers that it’ll keep you wanting to come back again and again.

The film follows Nyles (Andy Samberg), a carefree and charismatic lad, and Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the cynical black sheep of her family, who happen to run into each other at a Palm Springs wedding. After accidentally following Nyles into a mysterious void hidden in the mountains, Sarah gets sucked into a time-loop with him forced to relive the same day over and over.

You’ve heard of this gimmick in movies like Edge of Tomorrow, Happy Death Day, and of course Groundhog Day before, but the movie manages to still feel fresh. Just like those movies, Palm Springs adds it’s own unique twist to the formula; it focuses on multiple people that are stuck in the situation together.

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That one particular aspect just barely scratches the surface of what makes the movie special, though. Palm Springs is like the more morbid, less glittery cousin of The Good Place. 

There’s a focus on what it means to actually be alive, the consequences of our actions, and love. Yet while those are certainly heavy topics, the events that transpire in the movie have a knack for feeling less weighty than one would think.

Like Nyles, the majority of Palm Springs has a rather happy-go-lucky approach to itself. While the name of Samberg’s character feels a little bit on the nose, I do admire how non-judgemental the film is about its subject matter.

It actually approaches its concepts in a way that, without spoiling anything, feels fairly ambiguous. Whatever way you view the esoteric sort of questions and themes that come up throughout the movie, you’re still welcome.

It does all of it, and is paced so perfectly — 90 minutes is, and always will be, a godsend — that you’re going to keep thinking about it well after the credits roll. Miraculously, just as many time-loop movies before it, Palm Springs hardly ever feels repetitive.

Palm Springs: Samberg and Milioti are the pair we never knew we needed

But of course, not everything in Palm Springs is meant to be hyper-examined, as it’s also plenty capable of being welcomingly silly. The humor is consistent and even crude at times. It’s the type of comedy that masks the seriousness of what’s actually going on extremely well.

Whether it be Nyles and Sarah experimenting with different ways to pass the time or the sheer lunacy of characters the two-run into, there’s genuine, controlled chaos to the whole thing.

What helps make the humor so enjoyable, of course, is the lead duo of Samberg and Milioti. It’s actually somewhat disturbing how good their on-screen chemistry is. They’re both funny in their own ways (Samberg goofier, while Milioti is more daring), and help make the absurdity of the Palm Springs predicament so believable. It’s not all too often that two leads are able to feel so genuinely, lovably flawed in a supernatural scenario.

The best part is just how much their characters are able to grow throughout the movie, too. Nothing about the two of them stays entirely the same. The movie also does its fair share of messing with gender roles and typical rom-com cliches. This isn’t You’ve Got Mail, sir; the woman is not the helpless one and the man is not the alpha leader this time.


Palm Springs — (Photo by: Hulu)

It’s almost like the two are the lighter, less moody versions of Alyssa and James from The End of the F***king World; they’re both ready to basically do anything.

Other than those two, though, nearly every supporting character in Palm Springs feels appropriately inconsequential. They’re on screen for just the right amount of time as to not distract from our lovable couple, and instead serve as momentary springboards, of sorts, into whatever the next scheme or major development in the story is.

One exception to this is Roy (J.K. Simmons), who serves as an elder figure that serves as a reminder of some of Nyles’ failures. Simmons is — and this might come as a bit of a shock —  excellent in his part.

Considering the movie mostly focuses on two young people navigating the difficulties and questions associated with life, Simmons is a necessary anchor to the whole thing. Without that kind of character, or performance, it’s possible that Palm Springs soars just a little bit out of orbit.

Make no mistake, there’s plenty of hilarity and nonsense to be found with him, too, but the moments in which he attests to the idea of love, togetherness, and the meaning of life hold tremendous importance and value outside of just making you laugh.

Palm Springs is the vacation we all desperately need

Whereas Netflix has had plenty of hits during the pandemic times we’re in (Tiger King, Da 5 Bloods, etc.), Hulu seems to have happened upon perhaps the best of the bunch. I have a theory that there are movies that are released that are exactly the kind of thing people are looking for.

Whether it be the return of the boxing-movie genre with Creed or the whodunnit pleasure that was Knives Out, there’s just something to be said for a certain genre of movie hitting at the right time.

Palm Springs is the latest affirmation of this theory, as it manages to bring a unique take on the tried-and-true time-loop mechanic. Given the state of the world, it feels like escaping on a voyage of self-discovery, and love is the appropriate kind of movie we need.

It’s heartfelt, genuinely hilarious, and the best kind of smart: the kind of smart that lets you make of it what you please — and if you just want to turn your brain off and laugh at the insanity, you can do that, too.

Palm Springs — (Cristin Milioti) and Nyles (Andy Samberg), shown. (Photo by: Jessica Perez/Hulu)
Palm Springs — (Cristin Milioti) and Nyles (Andy Samberg), shown. (Photo by: Jessica Perez/Hulu) /

Palm Springs is a reminder that life is, unfortunately, incredibly complicated and how it, even more, unfortunately, can be impossible for us to ever understand it. In many ways, though, it’s about what we make of it, and who goes along with us on that bizarre journey that actually matters.

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How much did you enjoy your Palm Springs venture? And what did you think about that ending? Sound off in the comments below, or let us know on Twitter!