STOP! DO NOT READ WITHOUT SEEING FIRST – THIS MOVIE IS BEST VIEWED WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING THE PREMISE
Sometimes it’s best to just allow a film to wash over you and let it take you down its path. In the case of the Andy Samberg / Cristin Milioti starring ‘Palm Springs’, streaming directly onto Hulu, this path is a literal cave that transports those who enter into a 24-hour time loop a la ‘Groundhog Day’. Is there any better cultural parallel for these unprecedented quarantine times than a movie that traps its main characters in an unending cycle of monotony?
It’s hard to believe that ‘Groundhog Day’, the 1993 Bill Murray-starring, Harold Ramis-helmed modern classic would spawn its own genre. The novel idea of a Scrooge-like jerk forced to relive the same day over and over until he proves to truly make the leap to a fully-realized moral human has become a cipher for all kinds of existential themes. So much so, this basic premise of repeating a time period over and over has been used in disparate genres from horror (‘Happy Death Day’) to dramedy (‘Russian Doll’) to science fiction action (‘Edge of Tomorrow’). ‘Palm Springs’ uses the trope in new, exciting, and inventive ways, simultaneously mining it for laughs, relationship drama, and pointed introspective explorations.
The day in question centers around a destination wedding set in the titular desert oasis town. Samberg’s character Nyles wakes up with his vapid girlfriend, the maid of honor for this union, and proceeds to lounge his way through the proceedings. His day culminates with a strangely prescient speech where he seems to be speaking directly to Milioti’s character Sarah, who, up until this point, appears completely uninterested in her sister’s nuptials. Of course, there’s a lot more to what seems like a preternatural connection between these two. What happens next is best left for the viewer to experience on their own, but safe to say, all manner of hijinks ensue.
The rest of the film is at turns scatalogical, childish, philosophical, and even poignant. Grade-A appearances from JK Simmons, Peter Gallagher, June Squib, and more elevate what could have been a two-handed version of ‘Groundhog’. The real draw though is Milioti and Samberg. They have real chemistry, comedic, platonic, and romantically earned. The movie acts as an extended, hilarious treatise on marriage, with its constant reminder of the hackneyed ceremony, to the warring factions of profound comfort and waves of annoyance that come with spending so much time with another person. Maybe it’s the lack of new movies to peruse, but ‘Palm Springs’ really comes across as one of the best 2020 has had to offer, a whimsical treat of a movie, with just the right amount of philosophical pondering, in the midst of some truly crude, very welcome humor . . .
Directed By: Max Barbakow
Written By: Andy Siara
Running Time: 90 minutes
* * * 1/2 (out of 4 stars) -OR- B+