Granger on Film: If you enjoy existential sci-fi, try 'Palm Springs'

Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) in 'Palm Springs.'(Hulu/TNS)

Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) in ‘Palm Springs.’(Hulu/TNS)

Courtesy of Hulu / TNS

“Palm Springs” holds the record for the biggest film sale at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it broke the record for the most-viewed Hulu release in its first weekend on the streaming service.

An obvious descendant of the “Groundhog Day” plot device, it’s set a destination wedding at which Nyles (Andy Samberg) is a guest; he’s the nihilistic boyfriend of a bridesmaid named Misty (Meredith Hagner).

It seems he’s been trapped for a long time in a seemingly endless time-loop on the day of the ceremony.

When Nyles hooks up with the maid-of-honor Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the bride’s recalcitrant sister who admittedly drinks too much and sleeps around, she unwittingly follows him into a mysteriously-lit cave, where she becomes stuck in the time-warp too.

Plus there’s this menacing fellow, Roy (J.K. Simmons), who’s been relentlessly stalking Nyles, bearing a heavy moral grudge.

As Nyles and Sarah struggle to keep their sanity in this bizarre, morally complex, often tedious situation, there’s absurdist humor, peppered with deeply philosophical observations.

“We have no other choice but to learn how to suffer existence,” Nyles tells her, as she makes one-attempt-after-another to escape.

While this 90-minute romantic comedy might have quickly come-and-gone in movie theaters, having it continuously streaming when we’re trapped at home during this pandemic, waking up and going through the same routine, day-after-day, seems to strike a familiar emotional chord.

Screenwriter Andy Siara and director Max Barbakow make their cleverly inventive, adroitly paced narrative-feature debut, which should inevitably lead to bigger and better projects in the future.

Curiously, despite its location-specific title, it was actually filmed over a 21-day period in Palmdale and Santa Clarita, California.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Palm Springs” is a skittish 7, if you enjoy existential sci-fi.

Susan Granger has been an on-air television and radio commentator and entertainment critic for more than 25 years. Raised in Hollywood, Granger appeared as a child actress in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Lassie. She currently resides in Westport.