Palm Springs (2020 film)
Palm Springs is a 2020 American sci-fi romantic comedy film directed by Max Barbakow and written by Andy Siara. It stars Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, Peter Gallagher, and J. K. Simmons, and follows two strangers who meet at a Palm Springs wedding only to get stuck in a time loop.
The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2020, and was released in select theaters by Neon and digitally on Hulu on July 10, 2020. The film received positive reviews, with praise for the performances and use of the concept.
On November 9 in Palm Springs, Nyles wakes up next to his girlfriend Misty on the wedding day of Tala and Abe. At the reception, he delivers an impromptu speech, much to the relief of Tala's sister, Sarah, the drunk and unprepared maid-of-honor. Nyles and Sarah bond and, after discovering Misty cheating on Nyles, begin to have sex in the desert when Nyles is abruptly shot in the shoulder with an arrow by a mysterious man. Wounded, he crawls toward a mysterious light in a nearby cave, warning Sarah not to follow. Concerned for Nyles, Sarah follows him and is sucked into a vortex within the cave.
Sarah wakes up and is startled to discover that it is November 9 again. She confronts Nyles who explains that, by following him into the cave, she has become stuck in the same time loop as him. Sarah unsuccessfully attempts many escape methods, such as driving back to Austin, attempting an act of selflessness, and committing suicide. Nyles and Sarah spend many days together, often relaxing in the pool of a nearby home whose occupants are away on vacation. Nyles reveals that the man who shot him is named Roy, a family man from Irvine, whom Nyles also trapped in the time loop after he and Roy met at the wedding and did drugs together. Nyles explains to Sarah that Roy blames him for being trapped in the time loop and occasionally comes to Palm Springs to hunt him for revenge.
After many loops, Nyles and Sarah camp out in the desert where they consume magic mushrooms and eventually have sex. The next day, it is revealed that Sarah has been waking up in Abe's room having spent the night of November 8 with him, and he advises her to leave before she is seen. A guilt-ridden Sarah refuses to talk to Nyles about their previous night, expressing that everything they do is meaningless. They are pulled over by a police officer who turns out to be Roy. Sarah rams into Roy with the police car, badly injuring him. After an argument, Nyles admits that he had sex with Sarah numerous times before she entered the time loop, something that he had lied about before. A disgusted Sarah runs in front of an oncoming truck, killing herself and restarting the day.
After the next reset, Nyles spends his days unsuccessfully searching for Sarah. He smells Sarah's perfume on Abe's pillow and realizes that Sarah and Abe had sex the night before the wedding. He confronts Abe during the wedding, and a fight breaks out between Nyles and Abe. Nyles travels to Irvine to talk to Roy, who has given up on hunting Nyles after Sarah hitting him with the car caused him to be kept awake in agony in the ICU. Roy explains that he lives in the perfect day forever with his loving family, but will never get to see his children grow up. Roy says that they should never speak again, and Nyles asks Roy to murder him one last time so he can reset.
Meanwhile, Sarah confronts Abe over their affair and both express their regret and remorse. Sarah then resolves to escape the time loop, spending many days in a diner studying quantum physics, general relativity, talking with professors, and finally coming to a solution. She tests her theory by sending a goat into the cave with explosives. In the next reset, the goat has disappeared. Sarah wakes Nyles up and tells him she believes she knows how to escape the time loop by blowing themselves up in the cave before they restart the day. Nyles admits he loves Sarah but wants to stay in the time loop with her forever. She resolves to try her escape plan without him, and a frustrated Nyles breaks up with Misty.
Sarah attends the wedding, gives a heartfelt speech for Tala, makes a phone call, and goes to the cave with explosives. Drinking alone in a bar, Nyles has a change of heart, decides to leave with her and rushes to the cave, professing he would rather die with her than remain in the loop alone. Sarah reciprocates his feelings, and they kiss while she presses the detonator. Nyles and Sarah wake up, again lounging in the vacant pool when the home owners show up, revealing it is November 10 and the plan worked.
In a mid-credits scene, Roy approaches Nyles at the wedding, asking about Sarah's plan to escape the loop (from her phone call). When Nyles does not recognize Roy, he realizes the plan has worked and smiles.
- Andy Samberg as Nyles, Misty's boyfriend and Sarah's love interest
- Cristin Milioti as Sarah Wilder, sister of the bride Tala
- J. K. Simmons as Roy Schlieffen, another person trapped within the time loop
- Peter Gallagher as Howard Wilder, Sarah and Tala's father
- Meredith Hagner as Misty, Nyles' girlfriend and Tala's bridesmaid
- Camila Mendes as Tala Anne Wilder, Sarah's sister and the bride
- Tyler Hoechlin as Abraham Eugene Trent "Abe" Schlieffen, Tala's fiancé
- Chris Pang as Trevor, the wedding officiant
- Jacqueline Obradors as Pia Wilder, Sarah's stepmother
- June Squibb as Nana Schlieffen, Abe's grandmother
- Jena Friedman as Daisy the Bartender
- Tongayi Chirisa as Jerry, a groomsman
- Dale Dickey as Darla
- Conner O'Malley as Randy, a groomsman
- Clifford V. Johnson as himself
Director Max Barbakow and screenwriter Andy Siara first came up with the idea as students at the American Film Institute, "with an equal eye on Jungian philosophical ideas and the pragmatic importance of writing a small-budget film that would be easy to produce." They imagined the script as "an absurdist comedic mumblecore take on Leaving Las Vegas, centered on a despondent thirtysomething who travels to Palm Springs to kill himself, only to slowly rediscover a sense of meaning in his life." When Siara went on to write for the television show Lodge 49, they redeveloped the script into a more ambitious project with a sci-fi edge. While Groundhog Day was a fundamentally important starting point for the use of a time loop in a romantic comedy, Barbakow and Siara knew they needed to distance their script from the film. This led to starting with Nyles already within the time loop, making the film like "a sequel to a movie that doesn't exist" according to Siara, and then adding Sarah as a second character within the loop to serve as a point of navigation for the audience.
The project was announced in November 2018 after it secured a tax credit to film in California, however due to the limitations of that tax credit, they were forced to film in Los Angeles area rather than Palm Springs. Andy Samberg was revealed as starring in the film. In March 2019, Cristin Milioti and J. K. Simmons joined the cast. Camila Mendes was added in April.
Filming began in April 2019, and lasted for 21 days. Shots feature the Cabazon Dinosaurs.
Palm Springs had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2020. Shortly after, Neon and Hulu acquired distribution rights to the film. Neon and Hulu reportedly paid $17,500,000.69 for the film, breaking the previous record for the highest sale from a film from Sundance by $0.69. Later reports put the deal closer to $22 million after guarantees were factored in.
The film was released in the United States digitally on Hulu and in select drive-in theaters on July 10, 2020. Hulu claimed that the film also set the opening weekend record by "netting more hours watched over its first three days than any other film" in the platform's history. In August 2020, it was reported that 8.1% of subscribers had watched the film over its first month. In November, Variety reported the film was the 26th-most watched straight-to-streaming title of 2020 up to that point.
Palm Springs grossed $164,000 from 66 theaters in its opening weekend. It played in about 30 theaters in its second weekend, and made $101,000.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 94% based on 202 reviews, with an average rating of 8.00/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Strong performances, assured direction, and a refreshingly original concept make Palm Springs a romcom that's easy to fall in love with." On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 83 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."
Writing for IndieWire, David Ehrlich gave the film a grade B+ and praised the film for cleverly reworking the Groundhog Day formula: "The movie always seems on the brink of biting off more than a super energetic 90-minute comedy can chew, and the sheer momentum of the storytelling doesn't give the story time to slow down." Peter Debruge of Variety gave the film a positive review, and wrote: "Palm Springs is to time-loop movies as Zombieland was to the undead genre: It's an irreverent take on a form where earlier iterations were obliged to take themselves seriously." Vince Mancini of Uproxx gave the film a positive review, saying: "Palm Springs is the perfect kind of art-comedy. It comes on like a brilliantly silly little lark and eventually lands on you like a ton of bricks."
Metacritic summarized various critics end of year top lists, and ranked Palm Springs in 12th place overall.
IGN named the film their "Best Movie of the Year 2020".