Written by: Andy Siara
Starring: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, Peter Gallagher, J. K. Simmons
Even when stuck in an unrelenting situation, it does not hurt to have someone to share it with. Having the right person can certainly brighten up the dilemma no matter how difficult circumstances can get. Through its rambunctious nature and cleverly written dialogue, Palm Springs takes a familiar concept and adds a level of freshness that elevates it beyond all other efforts.
Sarah (Cristin Milioti) has found herself attending her sister’s wedding and after nearly hooking up with Nyles (Andy Samberg), finds this energy found in a cave. Once she enters it, she wakes up with the same day repeating itself. She soon discovers she is stuck with Nyles (Andy Samberg) in a time loop with no hope of escaping it.
The time repetition concept has been done many times over the years with variations and twists, with Groundhog Day being the one most people latch onto as the pioneer. Even with the release of this film, it received the moniker of being Groundhog Day but at a wedding. While admittedly not a fan of the 1993 classic, Palm Springs finds its success by creating two incredibly fun characters to follow and the performances to match it.
Much of the fun found in this film comes from the revelations, which will not be revealed here but it demonstrates the true strength of the screenplay. It utilizes the time loop idea, but it explores the mental and emotional impact it has on these characters. Why the time loop exists does not exist never gets explained nor did it ever need to be because it only matters what it does to the characters and the way Nyles and Sarah process this predicament says plenty about their mindset in life and indicates what the future holds. As Sarah just enters the time loop for the first time, it gets revealed that Nyles has been there for quite a while even with it being impossible to calculate. His mindset certainly looks different compared to Sarah’s because she found herself in a situation she does not want to continually repeat. Their clash and eventual merger makes for the momentous scenes but also the fun that could be had in this predicament.
With the montages, it shows the wild things that can get done with knowing the next day will get repeated. The rules get established that no matter where the person goes or what they do, once either of them falls asleep or dies, they wake up the next day and start the day over. It made for an unthinkable situation where Nyles mentions it stinks getting stuck in an ICU and enduring pain until you fall asleep and/or die from an incident. This near-invincibility allows the pair to have some fun with no fear of the consequences involved. It involves stealing a plane, acting out movie scenes, and just having fun. In those moments, the movie certainly shines because these characters establish themselves as people to root for, which makes the serious moments that much more impactful.
Setting always plays a major part in stories and the title indicates the one utilized in this feature. With the wedding taking place at a hotel, the surrounding area has nothing but hot arid land all around. It allows for them to get involved in more spatially necessary shenanigans but also creates this form of isolation where they need to do plenty of driving to get to other places. The heat gets real out there. Additionally, with both of them attending a wedding continually, it really tests how often they can put up with the lovey speeches and moments that can be enjoyed once but multiple times may cause some serious headaches. With emotions at an all-time high, messing about with the wedding makes the stakes large in each occurrence, even if they know things will revert back to the beginning of the day anyway.
The screenplay does plenty of heavy lifting but the performances by the two leads really help in the way create electric chemistry. With this repetition, characters in these sorts of films tend to be fairly thin but so much gets learned through these two individuals in their interactions. Andy Samberg has proven he can thrive in a comedy like this but Cristin Milioti really knocks it out of the park with her portrayal of Sarah. She remains a puzzle to figure out in the beginning and as more gets revealed, it becomes obvious why she’s in a bigger rush to get out of this time loop as compared to Nyles. This allows for more character development and Milloti does so well jumping from the obscenely comedic to the deftly emotional moments. A wonderful two-hander from these two, as I could continue to watch their shenanigans for much longer.
Palm Springs promises and delivers a fun use of the Groundhog Day twist and does so with some terrific and fun characters to follow. It aptly uses its setting to its advantage and brings just enough emotion to make the whole experiment worthwhile. The film adequately examines the belief of being defeatist and really answers the question of how quickly someone can learn quantum physics.