Search Party: Every Season a New Show – HBO Max Review

Alia Shawkat stars in this very broad-spectrum comedy.

SUMMARY

Dory Sief (Alia Shawkat) is in her late twenties and has no idea what she’s doing with her life. She’s a graduate of NYU who is in a mundane relationship with her boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds). Her closest friends, actress Portia (Meredith Hagner) and narcissist Elliott (John Early), don’t particularly offer any helpful advice. However, one day she sees a supposedly missing former classmate named Chantal (Clare McNulty) at a restaurant in New York and decides to track Chantal down. She gets help from Drew, her friends, as well as her ex-boyfriend Julian (Brandon Michael Hall) and investigator Keith Powell (Ron Livingston), and starts to both lose herself and find herself in the process. Along the way, she runs into cult of jewelry sellers, a blackmailing zoo worker, and a very friendly French-Canadian. The second season deal with the fallout from finding Chantal, the third season is a courtroom drama, and the last season deals with a kidnapping related to the court case.

Yes, they’re almost always dressed like that.

SUMMARY

I hadn’t heard of this show while it was on TBS, which is probably due to my not having cable anymore. When I finally watched it, I had no idea what it was about, but the first season got me hooked pretty quickly. Dory, and most of her friends, are all kind of lost, mostly due to their own selfishness. A recurring theme throughout the show is having a character see someone else go through a tragic event and say “but what does that mean for me?” Throughout the series, we see each of them change massively and mostly for the worse.

She’s not the best person, Maeby?

The best part of this series is that each season mostly feels like a completely different story. The style and wardrobe often seem to change accordingly. The first season is a mystery as Dory tries to find Chantal and it contains one of the funniest finales that I have ever seen. The second season is a thriller with some noir elements. The third season is a courtroom drama. The most recent season is more of a horror story related to kidnapping. No matter what the structure, though, it’s all done in a comedic style that is mostly based on the fact that the lead characters are all still the same broken, selfish, and dishonest people throughout. Rather than growing from their experiences, they often seem to become more focused on themselves as the show goes on, but, like the Gang in Its Always Sunny, they’re all so horrible that the only people who can put up with them are each other. 

Even when they seem like they should learn… they don’t seem to.

Because of the nature of the characters, this show would absolutely not work if the performances weren’t all great. Since, with the occasional exception of Drew, you mostly have to dislike these people, it’s important to make them detestable in interesting ways. It helps that the supporting cast, which varies from season to season, are also usually populated by great characters. Probably my favorite cast is Season 3, where the attorneys involved are played by Michaela Watkins as the snarky prosecutor, Shalita Grant as essentially Elle Woods dealing with the worst client ever, and Louie Anderson as a washed-up and fairly checked-out older lawyer. Their interactions, while they will absolutely drive any actual lawyer nuts to the point of screaming at the television that this is not at all how law works (Yeah, me included), are absolutely hilarious.

Shalita Grant is brilliant.

Overall, I recommend this show highly. It’s rare to find a show that’s so willing to reinvent itself.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Palm Springs: I Love This Movie – Hulu Review (Ending Explained)

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti star in this smart romantic comedy.

SUMMARY

It’s November 9th and Nyles (Andy Samberg) is at the wedding of Tala Wilder (Camila Mendes) and Abe Schlieffen (Tyler Hoechlin) with his girlfriend, Misty (Meredith Hagner). After the wedding, a drunken Nyles delivers an impromptu toast, which bails out Tala’s unprepared sister, Sarah (Cristin Milioti). Nyles starts up a conversation with her and the two hit it off. She and Nyles find Misty cheating on him, so they start to make out in the desert until they’re interrupted by someone named Roy (J.K. Simmons) shooting Nyles with arrows. Injured, Nyles crawls into a strange cave and Sarah follows. She finds herself waking up on November 9th, now stuck in a time loop with Nyles. Hijinks definitely ensue.

Some hijinks involve the pool and beer. Most, honestly.

END SUMMARY

So, I went into this movie totally blind. I was told that it was funny and it stars two people I like, so I figured I would watch it eventually, but I didn’t know anything about the film. I almost wish that I could talk about this movie without mentioning the central conceit. However, it is a hallmark of good filmmaking that I was able to guess the underlying time loop premise just based on a few scenes of Andy Samberg interacting with the crowd. It was at that point I paused the movie and said “This is awesome.” It would not be the last time I did so during this film. 

I really hope Andy Samberg got to drink some of that beer.

Actually, that amazing efficiency of storytelling is part of what works best about Palm Springs. It doesn’t have to really tell us everything that Nyles has gone through because we can see how he interacts with the world now. His nihilism (not saying that’s why his name is Nyles, but…) has taken over his life because literally nothing he does matters. He has been through so much that he barely feels human, but we also get the idea that he was never filled with an abundance of ambition before this. Nyles, despite having spent what has to be literal years in this loop, doesn’t appear to have actually used it to gain new skills or better himself, he’s just given up and gotten drunk. The movie takes advantage of the fact that you’re probably familiar with at least some other Groundhog Day loop media and uses that to skip over some of the more common stages in the trope, like moving past the suicide montage. It does the same with many tropes of romantic comedies, allowing us to skip quickly past some of the dumber formulaic elements and move towards some more genuine and compelling interactions.

They even make the wedding hijinks more interesting than most films.

Cristin Milioti is one of my favorite actresses in recent years, mostly due to her amazing performance as the titular Mother in How I Met Your Mother. In this film, she is damned near perfect and the chemistry between her and Andy Samberg is so natural that it never seems forced even under the most bizarre situations. Sarah is a screw-up and basically the black sheep of her family, something that doesn’t exactly seem undeserved based on some of her actions during the film, but we also see that unlike Nyles she doesn’t give up easily. Her growth throughout the film is hard-won, but it’s almost more satisfying than Nyles’s arc because we see her initial fall into depression after she realizes that she’s stuck in a loop. 

She’s so good at reaction shots. “Acting is reacting” is a real thing, guys.

Oh, and then there’s the comedy. My god, there’s the comedy. Andy Samberg isn’t exactly playing his usual goofy layabout like in Brooklyn Nine-Nine or the oblivious Rock Star from most of his Lonely Island projects. Instead, he’s a broken man, and he nails the humor that comes from that kind of darkness. His dialogue delivery and even his physical performances kept me laughing throughout the entire plot, but it only gets better when he’s with Milioti. Her comedy reactions are on-point, as is her delivery. She can give a good line a push into great, or give a look that moves a fun joke into uproarious. I was laughing so hard at points I almost broke, and a lot of that was just the two of them messing around with the time loops. All of the supporting characters, too, help create this hilarious environment.

Did I mention that hijinks ensue? Because they do.

Overall, I just loved this movie. It was one of the most fun times watching a film I’ve had in a while. I recommend it to everyone.

ENDING EXPLAINED

Just making sure that people get what happened at the end here. Sarah, having studied Quantum Mechanics, determines that the only way to get out of the time loop is to destroy the cave while the loop is actually transporting them back to the beginning of the day, because it’s a temporal wormhole. If they destroy the cave and themselves at the same time while the cave is transporting them back, that’ll cause the wormhole to try and restart twice at the same time, essentially overloading it and blowing them into tomorrow. Now, this is entirely insane, but why listen to me, I’m just a physicist. We don’t find out of they started the next day where the first loop ended or where the last loop ended, but since they both have memories of the full loops, probably the latter. 

At the end of the movie, we also see the dinosaurs which the pair saw while they were on mushrooms earlier. It turns out that these are the Cabazon dinosaurs, a set of giant roadside attractions that were previously in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. The dinosaurs are visible from Palm Springs due to their size and proximity. They appear to be moving in both scenes, but I think the first time that’s because of the drugs and the second time that’s because of the thermals coming off of the desert. However, it’s also possible that because there’s a magic time portal buried in the mountains, there might also sometimes be dinosaurs near the fake ones. After all, love is just as crazy as a time portal. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.