Palm Springs

 

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A charming dive into the infinity pool. 

 
Palm Springs

Once upon the time: Meredith Hagner and Andy Samberg 

 

The ‘time loop film’ has emerged as a sub-genre all its own, with Edge of Tomorrow, Happy Death Day and the zenith Groundhog Day, among the best examples. Palm Springs effectively blends all three with romcom, sci-fi and darkly comedic elements. A hot topic, the film emerged from the 2020 Sundance Film Festival with significant buzz and a record breaking purchase. The streaming platform Hulu and distributor Neon spent over $17.5 million for it, surpassing the previous largest sale in the history of the festival by an intentional .69 cents.  

 

Imagine waking up to an endless summer with no responsibilities. That’s where Nyles (Andy Samberg) finds himself in Palm Springs, day drinking in the pool each morning aboard a giant inflatable slice of pizza and living it up each night as a wedding plus-one. When the sister of the bride, Sarah (Cristin Milioti), is inadvertently pulled into the vortex, the time warp starts all over again...and again...and again at 9:40am the 9th of November. As Sarah comes to terms with her new reality, Nyles encourages her to let go and give in to the advantages of the same-day experience. J.K. Simmons and June Squibb round out the cast, adding strong performances to the mix.

 

In his directorial debut, Max Barbakow captures a light story with big ideas and serious heart. Palm Springs is a fun, unexpected journey down the ‘groundhog’ hole. The film wisely contrasts a character coming to terms with her situation, with another that has long-since resigned to his fate in the loop. Screenwriter Andy Siara largely manages to avoid the repetitive nature that accompanies the plot convention and keeps the story feeling fresh. Although rooted in romantic comedy, the film raises fascinating existential questions about the nature of time, risk, death and morality. The synthesizer vibes of the original score by Matthew ‘Cornbread’ Compton, gives the film an 80s’ aesthetic that blends well with the vibrant colour palette and desert landscape.

 

Following its debut, the film has become the subject of online conspiracy theories rooted in subtle details such as the November 9th election date and multiple characters’ use of the word ‘shukran’ (meaning ‘thanks’ in Arabic). The fictional brand name of Nyles’ beer ‘Akupara’, may refer to the Hindu tortoise that holds up the world or the meaning of the name itself: ‘unbounded’ and ‘free’. The much scrutinized final shot contains a cute nod that some argue points to a greater meaning. There’s even a marketing website, established by the film’s creatives, dedicated to selling merchandise based on the fictional hair mist ‘Orchid Explosion by Fournier’. This itself is perhaps a reference to the French astronomer Georges Fournier or (more likely) Fournier’s disease, i.e. gangrene of the male genitalia. Regardless of the intent, Samberg’s comedy trio The Lonely Island, which served as producers, are likely having a good laugh, particularly considering the film’s low-budget and substantial sale.

 

CHAD KENNERK

 

Cast: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, Peter Gallagher, J.K. Simmons, Meredith Hagner, Camila Mendes, Tyler Hoechlin, Chris Pang, June Squibb, Dale Dickey.

 

Dir Max Barbakow, Pro Chris Parker, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Dylan Sellers, Becky Sloviter and Jorma Taccone, Screenplay Andy Siara, Ph Quyen Tran, Pro Des Jason Kisvarday, Ed Andrew Dickler and Matt Friedman, Music Matthew Compton, Costumes Colin Wilkes.

 

Limelight Productions/Lonely Island Classics/Sun Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment-Neon/Hulu.

90 mins. USA/Hong Kong. 2020. US Rel: 10 July 2020. Cert. R.