What They Say:
Stuck in a time loop, two wedding guests develop a budding romance while living the same day over and over again.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
I’m a sucker for a lot of different things and Palm Springs rolled way too many of them together. A modern update on the Groundhog Day movie? Check. Romantic comedy? Check. Cristine Milioti? Oh, big check. Andy Samberg? Ok, half a check. I’ve had mixed luck on Samberg’s works over the years but I enjoy the heck out of Brooklyn 99. The big sell for me here was Milioti as I thought she was the best part of the final season of How I Met Your Mother, a show whose final episode made me never watch it again. This film, made for $5 million, also has a lot of actors I really like such as J.K. Simmons, Peter Gallagher, Camila Mendes, and Tyler Hoechlin. I’ve enjoyed a lot of their roles in other works and there’s a comfortable familiarity to them that I like which makes films like these even more comfort food in a way.
The premise is the simple one that Andy Samberg’s Nyles is stuck in a time loop on a wedding day that he’s attending with his girlfriend who’s been cheating on him for some time. Unlike Groundhog Day where we step into it from the beginning, here we have Nyles already going through the loop for what must a couple thousand times. He’s seen every iteration of this wedding and its shenanigans but there are new ones to explore. The reason for that is when he hooks up with Milioti’s Sarah, the older sister of the bride as played by Mendes – who is marrying Hoechlin’s Abe, the whole event goes bad and Sarah ends up caught up in the whole time loop thing too. The time loop is simple enough in that as soon as Nyles (or Sarah) go to sleep, they wake up at the start of the same day. It turns out that Nyles got into this when he stumbled into a cave that opened up after a mild earthquake that day which has now caught him in this wild quantum event.
So Nyles goes about his life as he does only to discover upon the next wakeup that his life is interrupted by Sarah accusing him of doing whatever it is that he’s done. And that sets everything into motion in the standard way. She forces him to explain the basics, she can’t believe it and tries to escape through various deaths that don’t make an impact on it, and eventually she gives in and the two have a lot of days of fun doing wild and crazy things knowing that it doesn’t mean anything. They do actually put off intimacy for quite a while of a sexual nature, but unlike older films that might keep that until closer to the end, it does exist here and the tension provides for some nice changes in how they interact. And Sarah’s a far more integral character here than in past ones where it’s only the male lead going through the loop. By having them both do it, and both having their own issues, it works far better and is a lot more engaging.
For a film that clocks in at a very breezy 90 minutes, it covers a lot of ground. Nyles has been doing this so long that he’s forgotten a lot about his life because it was so empty and meaningless overall, making this repetition something that he feels like he has command over and that makes him co-dependent with it. Which he transfers onto Sarah to a degree when the two of them are together. Sarah’s issues are more in the forefront as we see through the wedding and her interactions with her family but as we peel away the layers we understand why she’s so desperate beyond the obvious to get out of this situation. It’s all so close and up front to her and having it repeat is just horrifying, which Nyles can’t understand. Nyles does have his own issue in that he ended up bringing someone else into this previously with Simmons’ Roy character, a man who spends his time traveling to the wedding location from Irvine to hunt Nyles because of what he got him caught up in and the life that he’s lost. There’s a really nice moment that they have which helps to explore more of the themes of what they’re all going through in different ways.
The film is director Max Barbakow’s first work and he worked on the story with screenwriter Andy Siara. Barbakow has a number of shorts to his name over the years and some writing credits but what we get out of this is a solidly competent work. It’s the kind of project that you expect, in a way, as it leans into the things you want out of a film like this – right down to the montage sequences – but it’s all handled perfectly. It delivers the right emotions, the actors just feel like they connect right through this, and with it utilizing its 90-minute running time as effectively as it does, giving us a lot of good quality downtime dialogue sequences, it never feels like it’s rushed or just trying to hit its marks. It feels like it has room to breathe and does so, allowing you to enjoy and engage with the actions and emotions of the characters all the more.
For most people, I’m sure Palm Springs will be perfectly forgettable after watching it. It is exactly that kind of movie in a way. But it’s one that I think is put together quite well, has a solid cast, and could have easily expanded another half hour by digging into the supporting characters more. But they were kept streamlined and used as necessary in order to focus on the two leads and the journey they go through here. Samberg continues to be really hit or miss for me in a lot of projects but I really liked him in this one, especially as more of his struggle was realized. For me, Milioti’s more of the lead and her journey is fantastic, especially as she takes control of the situation and tries to truly figure out how to move forward. It’s a great little summer flick.
Streamed By: Hulu