Palm Springs (2020)

A clever subversion of the monotony of everyday life/routine with a plot-eclectic time-loop arc elevated by a phenomenal Samberg lead performance & charming comedic-irreverence that blends multiple genres and analyzes the human condition. Hulu’s first hit film. 8.9/10.

Plot Synopsis: Stuck in a time loop, two wedding guests develop a budding romance while living the same day over and over again.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

A Subversive Sundance Hit For Hulu

A Comedically-Irreverent, Nihilistic, Eclectic Multi-Genre Blend Of A Vacation Film – Groundhog Day x HDD x Eternal Sunshine

Photograph Courtesy Of: Hulu Originals

If we’re talking about the titans of the streaming wars rocking our television subscriptions and the cinematic industry in this new age of entertainment, Hulu is one of the oldest, yet weakest offerings when it comes to original content. The Handmaid’s Tale, Castle Rock, Ramy, & Harlots are fantastic – but pale as almost a joke of a Resumé from 2011-2020 comparatively to what Netflix did in their early years alone, now full of classics like House Of Cards, Stranger Things, Love/Death/Robots, Ozark, Peaky Blinders, Narcos, Dark, The Haunting Of Hill House, Daredevil, Mindhunter, When They See Us.. should, should I even go on? Heck, even newcomers like Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Disney Plus, and Apple TV+ are making more compelling watchlists in their first year or two on the market with products like The Boys, Raised By Wolves, The Morning Show, & The Mandalorian. Hulu’s slow-burn fade into irrelevany demanded a product to keep them afloat from drowning in the streaming wars – and one’s finally here: ironically, on float-tubes. A clever, mega-stylish subversion of the monotony of everyday life/routine with a plot-eclectic time-loop arc and juxtaposition of bad relationships amongst the celebration of supposedly-perfect ones – elevated by a phenomenal Samberg lead performance & charming comedic-irreverence that blends multiple genres and analyzes the human condition, Hulu has a first hit original film in Palm Springs – at a critical time in the streaming wars, too.

The Wedding

A Time-Loop We Come In Already Tangled By, We’re Introduced To Our Major Players – & The Lonely Island’s Gifted Adam Samberg

Photograph Courtesy Of: Hulu Originals

The film begins with an explicit scene that establishes something off and nihilistic about its central protagonist: The Lonely Island’s Adam Samberg as Nyles. A wedding at Palm Springs: the happiest day of the bride and groom-to-be’s life, set in this beautiful California location – feels, for some reason.. tiresome. There is an overwhelming sense of deja-vu and fakeness/charade in the atmospherics and Samberg’s exhausted, do-not-give-a-f*** attitude that makes us raise our guards about the canvas presented. This is all the point though, as unbeknownst to us, we come into the film already within the time-loop through a perspective of a Nyles who has already been stuck reliving this day for weeks – or months. The secretive plot does a fantastic job of hiding this, as does Samberg’s brilliant performance making us believe he just doesn’t want to be there at social obligations that do grow very tiresome and old with acting that showcases a range of seriousness far beyond his previous, comparatively-dumber curriculum vitae (I’m On A Boat or J*** In My Pants, anybody?). That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of comedy too – in the first act alone there are plenty of hearty laughs and sharp satirical screenwriting to be admired, such as mimicking elders’ bad dance moves, reversals of infidelity, and one-liners in awkward situations like being unable to unbutton your lover’s pants during foreplay and just giving up in admittance. It’s just mixed brilliantly with a twinge of nihilism and plenty of precocious, dark social commentary on the gloom of love and relationships subverting the cheesy rom-com gush we came in expecting. As if that wasn’t enough, the combination takes a wild detour into horror country when a masked hunter with bow-and-arrow shoots Nyles multiple times and chases him into a mysterious red glowing cave – one his new lover Sarah, against his warnings, follows him into, along with us as viewers.

A Time-Loop That Elevates The Subgenre

Through Brilliant Screenwriting & Performances, The Human Condition Analyzed Through A Lens Of Nyles x Sarah

Photograph Courtesy Of: Hulu Originals

The time-loop set off by that cave and how it’s used as a prismatic analysis of life experience are easily the greatest achievements of Palm Springs. As previously mentioned, from the opening bow-and-arrow introduction, this temporal revisitation is anything but its predecessors or cookie-cutter genre rules. Removal of the narrative-norm of having it all be a purposeful lesson or elaborate design by a God or fate outside of the bends of physics and bare-bones universal science makes Palm Springs’ loop emancipated, more realistic, and scarier than any time-loop epic before it. Nothing they can do to escape it works, a truth Nyles & hunter Roy learned beforehand but Sarah has to figure out the hard way – at first being a source of pure existential terror, until they realize how much fun this once-in-an-eon situation can be. The film takes the concept lightyears on comedic value, with everything from ’80’s flash-mobs to targeting new prank victims every wedding night to sex trophies to watering dog crap, but balances every joke or gag it has with profound social commentary on shockingly-deep topics like the meaning and point of life, love, evil, time, and whether it really is better outside or inside the loop’s sanctity – if we’re even able to live fully with danger of the unknown omnipresent in the depression, poverty, and disease-filled world around us and the dual-edged sword of progression/consequences making our actions mean something but inviting failure. As this exposition is happening around us, one of the most beautifully-developed and anarchic, self-destructive relationship arcs in its genre starts to develop: between Nyles and Sarah.

The Romance & Existential Analysis

A Butterfly-Activation Romance Arc Of Two Misfits With Self-Destructive Tendencies Learning To Break Them Alongside The Loop

Photograph Courtesy Of: Hulu Originals

Everyone who has ever been to the site knows how CLC feels about rom-com as a genre: we hate them. A shallow, elementary, lowbrow genre that shares more in-common with reality TV or soap-operas than real cinema, it’s the easiest, laziest, and most pandering type of moviemaking – and one we can barely survive more than a couple experiences of a year. Palm Springs, however, is the genre at maximum capacity – one of the best romance/comedies in decades and one that balances enough intellectual stimulation and existential point-of-being to make you (and your brain) want to keep watching.. while making your heart flutter all the same; one that might make us want to watch the genre more often if more are made at this level. The two misfits of Nyles and Sarah trapped in their own self-destructive tendency-cages as much as the time-loop cycle around them find each other and have a beautiful escalation of an authentic-feeling, relationship-analytical romance that will make you smile as much as they each do every morning realizing they have their own little secret the rest of the universe will never be aware of or be in-on, a hyper-romantic proposition all its own. This is also where Cristin Miloti’s performance rises from a somewhat-meek and ~unimpressive opening to a fleshed-out character with satirical vulnerability anyone with relationship inequity pasts can project on, still below Samberg’s career-definitive performance as the puppy-dog charming Nyles yet holding her own as a nice counterbalance/opposite personality to make the chemistry zip in this peculiar, JK Simmons-steely-vigor-bolstered cocktail mix. Even when things go sour in a classical genre-pandering slice of melodrama, it still builds itself back up nicely while not losing its overarching theme of there being darkness and problems lurking underneath the superficial surface of all these ‘perfect’ relationships. The juxtaposition of all this cynicism and dark pasts of relationship experiences against the many bright and happy couples at this marriage celebrating eternal love and social norm in a paradisial California setting is the icing on the cake of this sweet cake with plenty of sour bite within.

Conclusion

One Of The Best Films Of 2020 – So Far

A Clever, Funny, Stylish Subversion Of The Monotony Of Everyday Life/Routine That Blends Genres & Analyzes Human Condition

Photograph Courtesy Of: Hulu Originals

Overall, Palm Springs is one of the best films of 2020 – and, quite likely, the best time-loop film ever made. It mixes the best of Groundhog Day and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind – with twinges of Happy Death Day, Shyamalan-ic drug-like bizarreness, and comparatively-barbaric rom-coms it blows out of the water in intellectual worth. A nearly-perfect film until that ludicrous finale superiority-complexed power-trip fantasy of a rando-girl with no background education earning multiple PhD’s in Theoretical Physics in a few days in a coffee shop.. because #feminism, its cons undermine but certainly don’t negate its fantastic pros. A clever, mega-stylish subversion of the monotony of everyday life/routine with a plot-eclectic time-loop arc and juxtaposition of bad relationships amongst the celebration of supposedly-perfect ones – elevated by a phenomenal Samberg lead performance & charming comedic-irreverence that blends multiple genres and analyzes the human condition, Hulu has a first hit original film in Palm Springs – at a critical time in the streaming wars, too. The film might just save Hulu or give it its own time-loop of survival.

Official CLC Score: 8.9/10