Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Rob Hunter discovers a streamer getting into the commentary game with their biggest hit of 2020.
Commentary tracks are a physical media treat, something that in the right hands (and vocal chords) can deliver insight and entertainment to viewers on some of their favorite films. They’re not as common these days, unfortunately, as studios and distributors grow less interested in releasing Blu-rays and more focused on streaming, but the fine folks at Hulu recently bridged that gap with one of their most acclaimed originals from 2020, Palm Springs.
There are no physical release plans, but an extra feature is now available on Hulu alongside the film itself offering a commentary by the film’s writer, director, and two leads. So of course we gave a listen. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for Palm Springs.
Palm Springs (2020)
Commentators: Max Barbakow (director), Cristin Milioti (actor), Andy Samberg (actor), Andy Siara (writer),
1. Samberg wants it known that Nyles’ spread-eagled posture on the bed was in the script and “was not an acting choice.”
2. It was around thirty degrees during the filming of the reception, and bugs invaded the scenes. Much of the film’s post-production efforts involved digitally removing insects.
3. Nyles offers up some clues early on that he’s stuck in a loop — his comment in the pool about today being like yesterday, his casual attire at the reception — but the biggest are present in his speech and dance. That said, the speech as it stands is vastly trimmed down from the original script.
4. That early scene where Nyles seamlessly moves across the dance floor was captured in five takes.
5. The beat where Nyles is suddenly shot with an arrow pre-coitus was the moment in reading the script where Samberg thought “ooh, I might have to do this.”
6. The cave scene was filmed at Bronson Caves which was also made famous in the 1960s Batman series.
7. It’s a fictional beer that Nyles offers Sarah poolside, and Samberg hopes that a real brewer will step forward to manufacture it. “Just know that it’s not a super dense IPA, it’s gotta be like a really light, watery, summertime beer that you want ice cold.”
8. Samberg references Groundhog Day (1993), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), and Happy Death Day (2017), and acknowledges that they’d never be able to fully differentiate themselves on the time loop front. Instead, they acted knowing that the audiences would already be familiar with the specifics which allowed them to avoid the usual setup time.
9. They never specify exactly how long Nyles has been stuck in this loop, but they suggest the sweet spot is somewhere between forty years and forty million.
10. They initially shot the scene with Nyles running naked through the desert with Samberg’s stunt double and then shot it with Samberg himself just in case it was too obviously not him, “but my butt was funnier.”
11. Milioti sees a time loop as a nightmare, but Samberg would use the time to watch all of M*A*S*H* (1972-1983) and rewatch ALF (1986-1990).
12. She asked to keep both the hook and her dignity after filming wrapped, but she only got the hook. “No one walks away from an indie shoot with their dignity,” adds Samberg.
13. Seeing dinosaurs in the desert is impossible, and its timing is intentional as the pair have concluded that neither of them deserve love and in fact find it impossible for themselves. It’s the moment that fully sold Milioti on the script.
14. The music cue after Nyles smells the pillow and has a realization is a favorite of Samberg’s despite being made fun of by Akiva Schaffer as being “straight out of The Goonies.”
15. The scene where it’s first revealed that Sarah had sex with Abe (Tyler Hoechlin) was distracting to early test audiences because Hoechlin’s torso was so damn ripped. It was pulling attention away from Sarah’s face and drama, so they used color correction to knock its visibility down some.
16. People have asked about the scene where Nana (June Squibb) possibly suggests that she’s aware of the loop — or maybe even experiencing her own, but no one seems keen on offering a definitive answer. As with many of the film’s questions, “what you think it is, is what it is.”
17. No, Spuds (Brian Duffy) is not actually Nyles’ dad.
18. The family at the end are producer Becky Sloviter, her husband, and her kids. “They drove a very long way to do that one shot for like two seconds.”
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“We talked about waiting for an earthquake but then decided that we didn’t have the budget.”
“For all the kids out there, Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans, probably don’t wanna watch this.”
“That move, when I slap my hands over my head, made me lightly hurt my schlong.”
“I think a lot of people would choose an arrow through the chest over sitting through traffic all the way home from Irvine.”
“Here’s the ending. No one knows what it means.”
The first few moments on the Palm Springs commentary are worrisome as the Samberg and Milioti simply point out what we’re seeing — “There’s the title. That’s a goat.” — but thankfully that changes quickly. The pair, along with the filmmakers, share themes, anecdotes, and insights into the film’s production and reason for existing, and it all works to make for an engaging listen. At a brisk ninety minutes, it’s worth it for fans to give this version a go… and not just because it might encourage Hulu and other streamers to make this a new normal.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.