Review: Palm Springs

I often wonder when, or even if, I’ll return to my beloved local movie theater and nestle into the worn leather seats with a box of popcorn and a cherry coke in tote. With so many film releases having been indefinitely postponed, including Mulan, Tenet, The French Dispatch, — shall I go on and make all of us movie-lovers even more depressed than we already are? — various movie studios have moved towards releasing films via streaming services as a way to keep consumers engaged and content(ish?). Rolled out releases are now becoming available for at home watch, and desperate for some Andy Samberg comedy, I was drawn to the recently released Palm Springs.

When I saw the trailer that Andy Samberg posted on Instagram not too long before July 10, the day of its release, to say I was ecstatic to see the Brooklyn-99 actor and comedian on screen again in something new and refreshing would be an understatement (especially considering the criticism Brooklyn-99 has recently received for its portrayal of police). The plot has a modern Groundhog Day feel, which is especially relevant now, given that every day in quarantine feels like a repeat of the last. Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) are guests of the same Palm Springs wedding and end up getting stuck in a time loop of that same day. With only each other for a source of understanding, comfort, and a possible escape from eternal boredom, a budding romance ensues with plenty of comedic elements.

Though the overarching storyline is reminiscent of Bill Murray’s 1993 film — characters realizing they are stuck in an alternate, time-looped universe, trying to uncover just how to “escape”, realizing their destined mission and developing their character along the way — Palm Springs feels different. The viewer is placed at a wedding, where the superficiality, ever-pressing smiles and politeness, and the rosy, slightly sappy atmosphere are things that are all too well known by many. Director Max Barbakow highlights the monotonous tendencies of this sacramental ritual, lovingly poking fun at the shallow places and people at weddings via the Joshua Tree aesthetics and the hilarious one-liners that demonstrate the ignorance of the supporting characters. Additionally, the story pushes an unapologetic “fuck-it” mentality that not only enlivens the plot, but also lets the viewer live vicariously through characters that now live in a world where they can actually go out, get drunk, fool around, and be in environments with more than ten people. Although the storyline begins to become muddled at a point in the third act (I was definitely on my phone for a good three minutes), overall it was something that I enjoyed and could find comical solace in.

One of the biggest factors that makes this film so appealing during quarantine is the fact that it is free to stream on Hulu with a regular account. Back in March, when I saw a list of films that would be available to stream in June and July, I was looking forward to watching Pete Davidson in his semi-autobiographical film, The King of Staten Island. Flash forward a few months later, and I’m told that it’s going to cost me twenty dollars to stream. At the Penn Moviegoer, we’ve had several conversations about the fate of movie theaters post-pandemic — whether or not there will be a large enough demand that will be enough for them to survive, given that streaming services seem to be pushing theaters towards a less than desirable fortune. Part of me understands that movie companies, production teams, writers, actors, and other individuals still have to work and make/release films in order to sustain themselves. But a much larger part of me empathizes with theaters and individuals that have had contracts broken from studios that have started going directly to streaming platforms with their productions. Given that both The King of Staten Island and Palm Springs were films released digitally, the price comparison between the two is a straight sign of which one you should stream. With a whopping twenty dollar price tag for the former, I feel the arms of capitalism creeping up on me just thinking about it. So save yourself some time and stream Palm Springs. It’s worth the watch for the price.

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