Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; a young man trapped in a sci-fi premise ends up dragging an unsuspecting woman into his orbit, causing the two of them to push the limits of their new world. This description is only the bare bones story of Palm Springs, the latest film under The Lonely Island banner, and one of the hottest titles out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. I won’t go into more extensive details of the story, because the film has some genuinely surprising moments across its runtime, but I will say that there are some hidden depths to this otherwise bright and sunny picture.
Palm Springs succeeds mainly in part to it’s beating heart. Writer Andy Siara has taken the narrative tropes that audiences are familiar with and injects them alongside some shockingly vibrant character development. Andy Samberg shines in the role of Nyles, the nihilistic boyfriend of a bridesmaid with nothing to lose, as he helps Sarah (Cristin Milioti) navigate the eternal hell he has already conquered. The two of them elevate their characters to feel fully lived in, which makes their inevitable bonding sessions compelling. Milioti and Samberg play off each other beautifully, whether they’re driving full speed into an oncoming truck or blowing off the ceremony and getting drunk in the pool. There are some other wonderful characters in the story, particularly once the film leaves the wedding ceremony behind, but I don’t want to say too much for fear of giving away the game.
Palm Springs takes a predictable premise and brushes the dust off, genuinely letting it sparkle with some exciting twists and turns while remaining hysterical throughout. It’s a breath of fresh air that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, but leaves audiences wanting more. Combining that with its short runtime (not including a mid-credit scene) makes it a perfect summer film.
Reviewed by Cassie Jo Ochoa