How Hulu is selling a romantic comedy set in a time loop.
Last year I noticed there seemed to be an influx of movies and series about characters living the same day over and over again until they achieved some kind of insight or other result. At the time I speculated that was in part because of the younger generation’s fear their adult lives were going to be an endless series of boring, repetitive days with no end in sight.
Now another in that loosely-defined genre comes to Hulu. Palm Springs stars Andy Samberg as Nyles and Cristin Milioti as Sarah. They are both attending the destination wedding of mutual friends and connect with each other while there. After they’re attacked by a mysterious stranger they each wake up separately, finding it’s the previous day all over again, a cycle that repeats each time they fall asleep, with no way to get out from the loop they’re stuck in. With nothing to lose and no consequences for their actions, they engage in all sorts of reckless mayhem and behavior.
Hulu’s campaign for the film, which has a perfect 100 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, has focused less on the romantic comedy aspect of the story and more on the time loop premise, but with a strong self-aware point of view.
You can’t miss the YOLO vibe on the first poster (by Legion Creative Group), released in late May. The copy placed above an image of Nyles and Sarah reads “Live like there’s no tomorrow.” How the pool the two are floating on goes on and on all the way to the horizon reinforces the endless nature of the situation they find themselves in while the fact they’re drinking in the pool hints at how they’ve given up on normality.
Instead of a straightforward photo, the second poster from early July features a kind of watercolor aesthetic, with Nyles and Sarah shown as large figures at the top and once more floating in the pool at the bottom. Around them are supporting characters and, like the first poster, various other elements – including a goat – that it’s reasonable to assume play a significant role in the story.
Nyles and Sarah have a meet-cute at a destination wedding they’re attending as the first trailer (9.3 million views on YouTube), released in early June, opens. Things take a turn when they wind up being hunted by a stranger with a bow and arrow, leading to them entering a mysterious cave and getting caught in your standard infinite time loop situation. That means they wind up living the same day over and over again, starting over when they fall asleep no matter what they do. As they embrace or struggle with their fate they engage in various outlandish activities, have a breakdown or two and generally try to make the best of their existential despair.
Online and Social
No standalone website for the film, and even the support it received on Hulu’s brand social channels doesn’t seem particularly robust.
Advertising and Promotions
The movie’s debut screening at Sundance was generally well-received, so much so that it was immediately picked up by Neon and Hulu for $17,500,000.69, a record price due to that $.69 at the end. A July release date was announced in early June.
It’s likely there were or are some paid ads being run to drive people to stream the film, but they haven’t crossed my radar. Limited pre-roll support was given to the movie on both YouTube and Hulu itself, but that’s about it.
Media and Press
While he and the rest of the cast were at Sundance, Samberg spoke about why he’s drawn to exclusively comedic roles. They also revealed what it was the drew them to the project and what audiences could expect. How the movie’s DP worked to make the film stand out was covered in this interview. Samberg appeared on “The Tonight Show” and talked about Sundance while promoting the return of his TV show.
A feature interview with Milioti allowed her to talk about working with Samberg, how she kept all the story twists straight during filming and more. Another group interview with the cast and filmmakers, including director Allison Jones, covered the path the project took from inception to production.
Other interviews with the primary and supporting cast covered largely the same ground.
Regardless of when it was made or what the original intent was, it’s hard to think of a premise that’s more timely than it is right now. Much of the U.S. is just beginning to emerge from months of quarantine, where days blended into one another and it felt exactly like you were stuck in an endless loop of repetition.
That’s likely why that’s the aspect of the story Hulu has focused on with the campaign. The search by Nyles and Sarah for not only an exit from their loop but also meaning within it is one a lot of people can relate to at the moment, regardless of or in addition to whatever feelings along those lines they carried with them previously. If anything, the relationship between the two main characters is unclear and ill-defined in the campaign when for other films it would have been the primary element, framed within the fuzzy time setting.
Samberg’s star power is a big part of the appeal put out for audiences to latch on to, but the charm and humor of Milioti can’t be overlooked either, and she’s given nearly equal representation within the marketing elements. That all adds up to a very attractive product being put out there, one that comes with significant buzz and positive word-of-mouth built in from its festival appearances.