Wedding Weekend Redefined in ‘Palm Springs’


Chris Willard

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti appear in “Palm Springs” by Max Barbakow. (Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

By Oakley Burt, Arts Editor


The 2020 Sundance Film Festival began winding down on Saturday, Feb. 1,  with select films holding their final showings. The effortlessly funny, eccentric, romantic comedy “Palm Springs” was one. Directed by Max Barbakow, “Palm Springs” stars Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, Camila Mendes and J.K. Simmons. 

“Palm Springs” opens in the dry, beautiful desert of this eponymous oasis with the earth being ripped open by a CGI earthquake. But the film doesn’t actually begin until Nyles (Andy Samberg) opens his eyes. To be blunt, Nyles is a nihilist and not that great of a person — he’s stuck in Palm Springs for a wedding he really doesn’t want to go to, with a younger, vapid girlfriend he really, really doesn’t like. His day starts off well enough — a lazy morning, followed by relaxing by the pool and getting drunk before and during the ceremony. 

The bride’s older sister and maid of honor, Sarah (Cristin Milloti), wants to be there less than Nyles  — though it’s not clear yet as to why. When she’s asked to make a speech at the post-wedding reception, Nyles — dressed like he’s at a luau — steps in and saves her from making a drunken speech. Instantly drawn to each other, Nyles and Sarah sneak away for a tryst in the desert, but it goes terribly wrong — they find themselves stuck with each other in an unexpected way, realizing that nothing matters. Or does it?

I would be spoiling the concept “Palm Springs” by comparing it to other popular films of this nature. But, I will say that “Palm Springs” is a modern-day twist on an old comedy that was focused on exploring the true meaning of life. “Palm Springs” broke a record at this year’s Sundance Film Festival when Neon and Hulu jointly announced its purchase for a specific, hilarious sum. The distributors purchased the film for exactly $17.5 million and 69 cents. The amount was quite on-brand for the film and Lonely Island, who produced the film along with Becky Sloviter. 

The Lonely Island trio consists of comics Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, who rose to prominence in the mid 2000s for their work on Saturday Night Live — most popularly known for the “I’m on a Boat” short. The irreverence portrayed by the trio shines through in “Palm Springs,” boasting some of the same crude, rude and existential humor as their comedic sketches. Samberg and Milioti’s portrayal of two lost souls drives the film. Both are delightful and charming as they become increasingly reckless in orchestrating wildly entertaining situations.

“Palm Springs” may not be anything new or inventive, but it achieves what it’s supposed to as a comedy — it keeps audiences laughing while having some sort of deeper meaning. It’s a film that’ll have you laughing throughout, and you just may learn a little something about yourself along the way.

“Palm Springs” will have a theatrical release by Neon, and will be streaming on Hulu at a later date. 


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