Every perfect rom-com should contain at least one dance scene set to disco music. Palm Springs contains two.
Palm Springs, a rom-com you should watch immediately on, also hinges on a sci-fi concept that isn't complete gobbledygook. The movie is set at a wedding where the two main characters are stuck in a time loop. They repeat the same wedding day -- with its deluded parents, out of control best friends and grandmas saying judgy things -- over and over again.
But Palm Springs isn't a wedding movie. It definitely isn't Groundhog Day 2.0. It's a subversive rom-com, where two drifting strangers meet at their lowest points. Through meaningful human connection (and time folding in on itself) they learn something about how to move forward and function in life. In other words, Palm Springs is an existential crisis wedding movie.
Palm Springs stars Andy Samberg as Nyles, a contradictorily energetic and downcast man whose vapid girlfriend is terrible at giving wedding speeches. As Nyles slides through the festivities, he takes surprising side-steps -- we don't find out every single thing about his character in one efficient introductory scene. Across Palm Springs' incredible 90-minute (and not a minute more) run time, Nyles reveals unexpectedly dark tidbits.
"We kind of have no choice but to live," he says at one point. "Your best bet is to learn how to suffer existence."
Enter Cristin Milioti's Sarah. All we know is Sarah is the screw-up sister of the bride (the bride is played by Camila Mendes!). While Nyles' girlfriend is giving a terrible wedding speech, Sarah is sipping a glass of red. Sarah is our lens into how the time loop works and her efforts to escape the endless orange desert propel the story forward.
Samberg and Milioti are comedic geniuses who perfectly balance each other out -- Samberg is the golden retriever to Milioti's Daria. Their disco dance routine is a highlight. The multiple genres and existential high jinks work in part thanks to this wonderfully bonkers and irreverent couple.
The jokes are compact like those in a tightly scripted sitcom. The pace never lets up and the mystery of the time loop, the characters' pasts and an aggressive wedding guest played by J.K. Simmons slots together with seeming ease.
Still, you might settle in for this time loop movie with a knot of dread slowly tightening in your stomach. How can it wrap up the romance and time loop aspects on emotionally and logically satisfying levels? Will the sci-fi concept inevitably turn into wishy-washy fantasy brushed over with a sprinkle of fairy dust?
Wisely, Samberg -- also a producer -- and creative team Andy Siara and Max Barbakow test-screened early versions of Palm Springs until they repeatedly received the thumbs up of approval. They ensured the sci-fi concept tracks enough to satisfy the most cynical of viewer.
Palm Springs even crafts its own classic rom-com final scene, where one character races after the other before they leave for good. It grabs the right emotional chords and yanks them hard to the tune of a Kate Bush happy-sad banger (Cloudbusting -- not)
If you have Hulu and need another sci-fi hit after, watch Palm Springs. It's a completely different kind of sci-fi movie, but just as impressive. It's Hulu's second best sci-fi gem.