Directed By: Max Barbakow Release: July 10, 2020
I should start this by saying I am a huge fan of Groundhog Day. The very concept is so creative and allows for literally an infinite amount of possibility, but at the same time not every movie can take the idea and make it fun. It’s a fine line you have to tread, what makes your vision different than what was already (arguably) perfected way back in 1993? That is the first hurdle that Palm Springs has to overcome if it wants me to leave happy. And thankfully, it is able to deliver on this concept.
It is Tala and Abe’s wedding day, and everyone is getting ready. Nyles (Andy Samberg) wakes up to find his girlfriend, Misty (Meredith Hagner), getting ready. Quick sex, then she has to get ready. Nyles takes the day very casually, always with a beer in his hand. The day proceeds smoothly, Nyles even saves Tana’s sister, Sarah (Cristin Milloti), from having to make the big speech. When they sneak away for alone time, Nyles is suddenly hunted by a mysterious man who he seems to know. He crawls away to a cave with red light, when he notices that Sarah followed him. Nyles warns her to go away, before waking up right back in his bed again. Only this time, Sarah knows the day is happening again as well.
While Groundhog Day shows us the first day of the infinite time loop scenario, Palm Springs starts us with someone who has already been through the loop for an unknown amount of time, just now someone else is in it with him. It still has the same idea’s that inevitably comes with the concept, trying everything at least once, not being able to understand, trying to end it in any way, then acceptance. Just now we can see it play it again through the eyes of another person. This idea immediately caught my attention and while I had expected just a retread of the same idea instead I was hooked by the characters.
Andy Samberg is, to me, an unsung gem of an actor. He has the ability to play the funny guy while also expressing deep sorrow when needed. This makes him such a good character for us to follow, while also not deviating from what is established. He already gave up trying to escape, and feelings are hard because they all fade for him. What helps is he plays off of Cristin Mollodi so well, her shy nature melting away as she tries anything to escape. She’s fresh to this, not callused like Nyles. You can feel them coming closer throughout, two people stuck in the loop together. Special mention to our mysterious hunter, Roy, played by the ever incredible J.K. Simmons. I always tell myself that he is so unique as an actor that his performance will pull away from the film, but he has never disappointed me with his impeccable ability to blend seamlessly with the rest of the cast. I don’t know how he does it but he deserves all praise.
I feel as though I must find some fault in films, for no film is perfect. Here it is fairly obvious, the supporting cast can’t shine in this kind of structure. They have to repeat their actions and be true to their character with no way of evolving throughout a narrative, only our protagonist can do that. They are the only one who actually feels the effect of time, after all. But that actually is the only gripe. I do say that Abe (Tyler Hoechlin) is a character that is allowed some hidden agenda in the film, but sadly so much of the film needs to have the spotlight on our leads that he only gets a few minutes to showcase. It is a very minor nitpic, but the supporting cast does not get much room to breath.
I was happily surprised by Palm Springs. I have always loved turning on Groundhog Day growing up and don’t see many other films tackle the concept enough. But this film scratched that infinite loop itch I have been unknowingly craving for so long. The characters are fun, the setting is lively and vibrant, and it is handled so well that I feel good enough to say that I recommend this to anyone interested in seeing a modern take on a classic idea. I just hope I don’t have to write this review again tomorrow…
What do you think? Have you seen Palm Springs? Have I missed anything? Or should I try again tomorrow…if it ever comes?