Spoilers will be in the pool.
This is one of those films with a lot of the whimsical factor in it. There’s a wedding, there’s a person that feels trapped in the vicious circle of life and everything goes as planned before meeting someone that is really trapped in the vicious circle of life, and slacking it up to the fullest. I don’t think you need a second look at the casting to figure out who is who. However, depending on the synopsis you read, you might already know what the biggest deal of the movie is. It’s not a bad film and it is enjoyable throughout with very little issues.
Palm Springs (2020) was directed by Max Barbakow and written by Andy Siara. Sarah (Cristin Milioti) wakes up to the start of her sister’s wedding day feeling like utter crap. She doesn’t want to do the whole thing, but goes through it as the maid of honor. When she’s asked to do a speech, she freezes and gets rescued by Nyles (Andy Samberg), a carefree soul wearing a hawaiian shirt and swimming trunks that is not related to anybody and is just here as a plus one. Before the end of the day Sarah will discover where Nyles blasé attitude to life comes from and why it will become a challenge to find any sense in her own life after she discovers his secret.
It’s really hard to see Andy Samberg as any other character than Andy Samberg. He’s got SNL, he’s got Brooklyn Nine-Nine and he’s known for his Lonely Island videos. He’s got a type, basically. That being said, he’s more subtle here. It works within the context of the film’s universe, so I’m trying not to knock it down. Cristin Milioti has the same problem as she’s the actual mother from the How I Met Your Mother sitcom, but at least she is playing a different character here. Sarah actually has more agency in this story than Nyles.
Might as well let the cat out now. Yes, this is another film that uses the premise of the time loop made popular by Groundhog Day (1993). Nyles is trapped in reliving his life again. Sarah finds his careless approach to life intriguing and chemistry develops. However, Nyles is pursued by Roy (JK Simmons) who is intent on killing him – or at least making him suffer as much as possible. When Nyles ends up getting sucked into a cave with a weird life, Sarah follows and ends up having to restart her days in the same fashion.
In a similar fashion, the mechanism by which the time loop happens is not important. It’s not even consistent as neither Nyles nor Sarah actually return to the cave every night. What does matter is what would you focus on doing if you had a day that you could throw away and repeat ad infinitum. The first thing, after the shock and the denial wears off is to try to break out. The second, as Sarah follows Nyles’ lead, is not to do much at all but goof around. This is the most entertaining part because they literally just let go of responsibility and any thoughts on consequences go out the window. Yes, it’s extremely liberating to be as selfish as you allow yourself to be.
Unavoidably, it can’t last though. As we go through the phases of discovery to acceptance, indulging, gorging and abuse it does seem this loop premise is playing the same route of getting to the bottom of the barrel before enlightenment happens. This is where the goal of breaking loose comes via a pseudo-scientific montage and by that time one character is determined to get loose and one has more romantic feelings towards the other. Of course, this is also where the romantic comedy elements come in to play. Drama is stirred by having one person confess their love at the same than their betrayal and we get the breakout portion of the plot.
It’s good. It’s even great in some parts. But there’s a point in which the whole concept begins to drag a little. Not too much, just a little. The thing is, at that time is also where you can recognize the usual contrivances of a romantic comedy splitting the characters apart to pull them together again (yeah, spoilers) to amp the ending. This is not a long film so this is a very minor technicality. Seeing the ending approach but still having to wait for the film to end, does make me wish for a different ending. I’m still satisfied with the one we got.
Recommended with reservations. I found the entire experience throughout pleasant. It does have patches in which I did find myself waiting for more story or development. Entertainment wise it’s very solid for most audiences, albeit people expecting over the top antics from Samberg might come up short. The quirky and the whimsical are always a bit of an acquired taste per film, and I found myself liking it without necessarily considering it for a favorite spot. Keep it on your wishlist for a whimsical watch when you’re in the mood.
That will do for now.