Published On: Sat, Aug 1st, 2020

‘Palm Springs’ | Anatomy of a Scene


Hi. This is Max Barbakow, and I’m the director of Palm Springs. “So without further ado, I’d like to welcome up the actual big sister of the bride, Sarah.” So this scene comes about five minutes into the movie, and we haven’t really met Sarah yet, who’s played by Cristin Milioti. But we’re setting her up here as kind of the black sheep of her family, as she forgets drunkenly as the maid of honor that she’s supposed to make a speech. – [CLEARS THROAT] “Bonsoir, mi familia!” And then things are about to get interesting as Nyles, played by Andy Samberg, who we have met the previous scene and understand doesn’t want to be at this wedding, swoops in and kind of randomly bails Sarah out with what turns out to be a strangely knowing speech. “We are born lost.” And there’s a lot of elements that I had to balance in this scene, and that’s kind of what makes it fun. It’s actually kind of a tonal microcosm of the whole movie in that way. We’re kind of showing this Pinterest board of a wedding, and we’re establishing the wedding party for the first time with Peter Gallagher and Cami Mendez and Meredith Hagner again. And then there’s also just the odd nature of the speech, which is Nyles knowing highly personal details about the bride and the groom. And he’s offering up profound life lessons. And this is all kind of subtly setting up to reveal that, yes, he has been living this night for an eternity, but this all has to come off with grace and a certain amount of clarity, especially because we’re dropping the viewer in the middle of this story, kind of media res, trying to stay ahead of them like we are the entire movie, without much context. And what makes it work is Andy’s incredible performance. And he’s totally in control, and he’s hitting all the notes. He’s charming. And then most importantly, the speech is, like you’re seeing here, kind of the first part of an elaborate, goofy seduction. And it’s kind of our offbeat version of a meet-cute. “Everyone here is your family. We are your world. And we will cheer you on with delight in our eyes as you achieve your wildest dreams. So raise a glass.” And we’re locking into Nyles and Sarah here kind of with a more subjective camera angle in honing in on the beginnings of this love story, which is what it’s all really about. And just any time you cut back to Cristin Milioti, she completely is just selling what we’re thinking as an audience, too. “Wait, what?” “Let’s dance.” And now we’re on to the dance. So in the writing of the script with Andy Siara, we were very much inspired by the dance sequence in Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” and decided we wanted to have our own. [DANCE MUSIC] Returning to Sarah here, kind of reiterating how miserable she is at the wedding. So we flew in Conner O’Malley and his fun elbow jig. [DANCE MUSIC] And now, here comes Nyles again. And Michelle Johnston was our great choreographer, and she did an incredible job working with Andy to create this dance. And we costumed up some of Michelle’s dancers, who were all the guests that Andy is interacting with as he’s dancing here. I think we shot it all in a couple hours, which is kind of an incredible tribute to Andy. But it was really important to shoot his moment as straightforward as possible and to avoid any cuts, aside from those back to Milioti. Because the more real, I think, the funnier it is. And we kind of thought about the dance in this moment right here as kind of this call-and-response that isn’t answered. And in that vein, it sets up this other dance with both Sarah and Nyles later in the movie to the same song when they are falling in love and dancing together. [DANCE MUSIC]



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