Wait...haven't we seen this before? It's deja vu all over again in "Palm Springs," but that's sort of the point in this bizarre-yet-compelling "Groundhog's Day"-style rom-com.
Sight unseen, if you hear that "Palm Springs" stars SNL alum and "Brooklyn 99" star comedian, Andy Samberg, and that it was produced by his "Lonely Island" production studio, you'd expect a laugh-riot. This isn't one. But that's not all bad.
"Palm Springs" is really more of a drama that has several funny components and characters, and it has much more curiosity than your average romantic comedy.
Nyles (Samberg) has found himself re-living the same day over-and-over again, for eternity. But unlike with Bill Murray in "Groundhog's Day," (a film that this one references subtly and frequently), the story doesn't begin with him finding out about his time-loop personal hell. It also doesn't release him once he chooses to become "self-less." When we meet Nyles, he's already spent a countless amount of days trapped in the same day, and he's lost all hope that there's any meaning to it all.
The particular day that he's anchored to happens to be a wedding that he's been invited, a guest of his girlfriend, MIsty (Meredith Hagner). But what makes THIS particular day-within-a-day important, is that the trainwreck, self-loathing sister-of-the-bride, Sarah (Cristin Milioti) ends up getting stuck in the day with him. Like, she's always been around as part of this day, but she's developed the AWARENESS that she's now re-living the day again and again.
This gives "Palm Springs" the opportunity to explore similar themes that "Groundhog's Day" did so well, as sort of a remix for modern times. The overwhelming message seems to be to "seize the day," all the while watching characters who are trying to make this particular day cease.
This plot-mechanism has been done before. "Source Code" was a great film that took the concept and applied it to an action-thriller. "Happy Death Day" took it and imagined it within the realm of horror. The major flaw in the design of "Palm Springs" is that it not only borrows from "Groundhog's Day," but it sets itself in the same romantic-comedy genre of film. In doing so, the comparisons are inevitable, and because "Groundhog's Day" is so well-known and so beloved, "Palm Springs" is only setting itself up to fall short of that greatness.
"Palm Springs" is more contemplative, if not imaginative. It's clearly a fantasy, and the chemistry between Samberg and Milioti is palpable and warm. If you have to spend the same day over-and-over again, here's a pair that makes it worth it. It bears mentioning that J.K. Simmons is quite great in this too as Roy, a guy who is also trapped in the time-loop who spends most of his time hunting Nyles with a bow and arrow and has tortured him countless times in the past. Every time Roy shows up, the movie elevates.
Samberg maybe shows more range here than he has in anything else he's done in the past, and you just like watching him. But Cristin Milioti is the one that most will end up Googling, trying to find out who she is and what she's been in before. He's good, she's great, and together they're just a couple trying to navigate life one-day-at-a-time...just like the rest of us.
Genre: Comedy, Romance.
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
Starring: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons, Meredith Hagner, Camila Mendes.
Directed by Max Barbakow (feature-film directorial debut).
"Palm Springs" is available on Hulu beginning Friday, July 10th, 2020.
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