“Palm Springs” Is A Phenomenally Smart And Winning Romantic Comedy


The high concept romantic comedy seems to be a thing of the past. Whether it has to do with the cost of producing one, audience tastes, or just the changing of the times, a rom-com that mixes in something else tends to be rare. At least on the independent scene, there are occasional efforts, but few can claim to be as magical as Palm Springs. This indie gem blew away folks at the Sundance Film Festival, and rightly so, as it mixes rom-com elements with science fiction, as well as some heady thoughts about life. Whether you love comedy, romance, or sci-fi, there’s something for you here. Hitting Hulu on Friday, it’s not to be missed. Simply put, it’s easy one of the year’s best titles.

This film is, as mentioned, a romantic comedy, though one with a science fiction twist and definite dramatic beats. Set at a wedding in Palm Springs, we first meet Nyles (Andy Samberg), the boyfriend of a bridesmaid. He seems totally disengaged with the proceedings, as if he’s all seen it before. He perks up a bit when he starts hanging out with Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the Maid of Honor and the black sheep of her family. They move away from the party and seem likely to have a tryst, though when that gets interrupted, Sarah finds herself in the same situation as Nyles. To say more would spoil things, but the pair are literally stuck at this wedding, as well as now with each other. The details are best left for you to discover, as well as how Roy (J.K. Simmons) factors into things, but it’s absolutely magnificent. Max Barbakow directs a screenplay by Andy Siara (both have Story By credits), with cinematography by Quyen Tran, as well as a score from Matthew Compton. Supporting players include Dale Dickey, Peter Gallagher, Meredith Hagner, Tyler Hoechlin, Camila Mendes, June Squibb, and more.

I absolutely adore this movie. It’s one of the year’s best, from top to bottom. What Max Barbakow and Andy Siara have come up with is nothing short of spectacular. Barbakow’s direction is smooth, the script he wrote with Siara is creative and witty, while the performances he got are outstanding. Andy Samberg is perfectly cast, showcasing comedic and dramatic chops, while J.K. Simmons steals his scenes, especially a moment in the third act that really hits you like a ton of bricks. Then, there’s Cristin Milioti, who is easily best in show. Her complex, flawed, and utterly lovable character defies convention at all turns. Not only does she deserve a ton of acclaim here, she deserves to break through and become an A-list star, no question about it.

Palm Springs is more than just an utterly delightful romantic comedy, it’s one of the smartest and most creative films of the year. I smiled from ear to ear for 90 minutes, and considering the state of the world, that’s not something that happens often. There’s a mix of hilarity and melancholy here that’s incredibly hard to pull off. Luckily, Barbakow and Siara were more than up to the challenge, not to mention Milioti, Samberg, and Simmons. They all handle the slight changes in tone with aplomb, helping to craft complicated emotions out of what could have just been a fun little diversion. Instead, we get something much more than that.

In a just world, we’d be looking at this flick as an awards contender. In particular, the screenplay and Cristin Milioti really do deserve Oscar consideration, though they might ultimately be relegated to the Independent Spirit Awards or bust. Regardless, Milioti in Best Actress, as well as Best Original Screenplay, should be considered by Academy members. Don’t sleep on Andy Samberg in Best Actor, J.K. Simmons in Best Supporting Actor, or even Best Picture with certain critics groups. There’s a chance this becomes an under the radar contender for Hulu, and if so, I’d be as delighted as anyone.

This weekend, Palm Springs represents not just the best option of the week then it hits Hulu, but one of 2020’s best options, overall. Damn near a perfect film, there’s a reason that it was the biggest acquisition ever at Sundance. The movie is just a modern classic in the making. Once you see it, you’ll understand why, no question about it…


Be sure to check out Palm Springs, available to stream on Hulu this Friday!

(Photos courtesy of Hulu)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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